Ivory Coast Mutiny: The Issues of Honesty, Trust, and Loyalty

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A four-day nationwide mutiny carried out last week by rebellious soldiers in Ivory Coast has made many to question the degree of control President Alassane Ouattara has over the military. More than that, the mutiny, which had occurred before in January, keeps one wondering whether the deserted soldiers see themselves indeed as an integral part of the Ivorian military force. More worrisome yet, the latest revolt casts some doubts on the level of loyalty, President Alassane Ouattara enjoys amongst the army as well as exposes the obvious fragility of Mr. Quattara`s government after a long civil war.

The latest mutiny which ended after four days of negotiations started, following the soldiers` grievances about their pay and living conditions. The rebellion was not the first from the disgruntled soldiers, who accused the government of insincerity and failure to keep to the agreement it made with them. The first mutiny on 6 January stopped after the government promised financial compensations for the rebels. It started after angry soldiers in Bouaké , seized weapons and ammunition at the local military base and police stations, demanding salary increment and bonus. Other demoralised soldiers, who took part in the ECOWAS  mission in Liberia, but have allegedly not received their salaries and bonuses joined the rebellious soldiers. Soon the mutiny had suddenly spread to many towns and within the twinkle of an eye, the mutineers had taken control of five major cities in the country, including Abidjan, the capital and economic pillar of Ivory Coast. It is noteworthy that the majority of the revolting soldiers were former members of the  Forces Nouvelles de Côte d’Ivoire, a rebel movement which had controlled the northern part of the country until the  Second Ivorian Civil War. After the war, the rebel group was demobilised and integrated into the regular armed forces. With the latest revolt, the loyalty of the group to the authority of the President or the defence Minister for that matter is seriously questioned.

The  Forces Nouvelles de Côte d’Ivoire had helped President Alassane Ouattara regain power after former president Laurent Gbagbo refused to relinquish power following the election defeat. After President Ouattara gained power, the rebels were promised some financial compensations. The government had promised in January the sum of 12 million CFA francs (18,000 euros) as bonuses to each of the 8400 rebels of Ivory Coast’s army of 24,000. However, after the initial payment of 5 million francs, the Ouattara government did not follow up the agreement. Having waited for the fulfillment of the government promises, the soldiers apparently felt used, dumped and deceived by President Alassane Ouattara after regaining power. The situation became explosive after a group of mutineers who took part in January went on national television last week and apologized to President Ouattara and the defence minister for taking part in the January mutiny. This group equally promised not to demand further for their bonuses. To many angry soldiers, the announcement was an act of manipulation and betrayal; hence, they revolted. Although one can easily attribute the mutiny to the agitation by former rebels, it is worrisome that other regular soldiers equally joined the protest. What does this say about the degree of loyalty, trust, and satisfaction amongst the Ivorian military?

Even though the revolt has stopped and the government promised to honour its agreement with the rebel soldiers, despite its dire economic strangulation, following the low price of cocoa, the country`s main source of income, the whole tensed situation has raised a lot of questions. With the low price of cocoa, how sure is the government that it will meet its obligation and fulfil its promises to the soldiers? How much control does President Alassane Ouattara have over the military? How loyal are the soldiers to the president? How much trust does President Alassane Ouattara enjoy amongst the soldiers? Are the disgruntled soldiers` allegiant to the president?  Are there elements within the Ivorian military who are still loyal to the outset former president Laurent Gbagbo? If yes, why and how best can President Ouattara pacify the mutinous  soldiers, restore confidence in them and build a strong, united military force, able and willing to defend the territorial integrity of Ivory Coast?

With the recent closure of banks, followed by an attempt by many expatriates to relocate their workers and family members to safer countries, absolutely, the mutiny and instability have a major impact on the fragile Ivorian economy. Unless President Alassane Ouattara pays good attention to the above dicey issues and challenges and works towards solving them quickly and judiciously, the latest mutiny in the country will be the beginning of future obstacles facing the country, which used to be the oasis of economic success and political stability in Africa.