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Cote d’Ivoire strikes financial deal with mutineers

The government of Cote d’Ivoire and rebel troops have reached a final deal at talks in Bouaké at the close of a tense day which saw outbreaks of gunfire in barracks.

Soldiers in Bouaké mutinied early this month, firing rocket-launchers and terrifying residents of the country’s second largest city, while demanding bonuses, better pay and housing.

The protests then spread to other cities, including the economic capital Abidjan, stoking security fears in the world’s top cocoa producer.

The mutiny saw President Alassane Ouattara order major changes in the top security ranks — the armed forces’ chief of staff, the senior commander of the national gendarmerie and the director-general of the police.

“The troops have agreed to return to their barracks,” a local official said, adding that every mutineer had managed to obtain a bonus of about $8,000.

While an initial deal had been reached almost a week ago, talks on implementing the agreement only began on Friday and tensions were high with troops taking up positions on the roads into Bouaké.

Regular gunfire was heard throughout the day, including at Akouedo, the biggest barracks in the capital Abidjan and at Odienne in the northwest and Bondoukou in the east.

There were fears before the deal was struck that the defence minister could be taken hostage and a general mutiny unleashed.

One source said the soldiers had originally been demanding a raise of 15,000 euros each, a significant amount in a country where many people earn about 150 euros a month.

It remains to be seen how the government will finance its promise.

Worse still, Ivorian state employees went on strike this week protesting pension cuts and a plan to raise the retirement age.

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