The Ivorian government on Wednesday forcefully condemned a special forces revolt after troops fired in the air in the army barracks town of Adiake following weeks of trouble from mutinous security forces.
The elite troops appeared to be angling for a deal with the government along the lines of one struck in January that offered some soldiers large one-off lump sum payments.
The authorities appeared somewhat conciliatory during previous bouts of protest, but swiftly took a stance when the special forces – who are in charge of the president’s security -joined the mutiny.
“The government … condemns and deplores these violent forms of protest,” Information Minister Bruno Nabagne Kone said, criticising “an attitude that has unfortunately been recurrent in recent weeks”.
Earlier on Wednesday, a resident of Adiake told AFP that elite troops based there were shooting in the air for the second consecutive day.
“Today, it’s market day, and they (the troops) told the women to return to their houses. Everyone is terrified, and holed up in their homes,” he told AFP by phone.
The shooting ceased in the mid-afternoon, another resident said.
“The mutinous troops say they are waiting … to go back (to their protest) if nothing is decided,” he said.
Tuesday’s gunfire in Adiake, located to the east of the commercial capital Abidjan, was the first protest action by special forces troops since other soldiers and members of the security forces mutinied in January.
Adiake also is home to a maritime base that trains marine commandos and provides coastal surveillance in an area that shares a border with Ghana.
A defence ministry official said the government will make a statement later on Wednesday on the unrest.
Troops first launched a mutiny over pay on January 5.
The initial protests were quelled when the government reached a deal with 8 500 mutineers, agreeing to give them $19 000 each.
However more soldiers have since taken to the streets demanding similar bonuses.
Last year Ivory Coast approved an ambitious military planning budget seeking to modernise the army and buy new equipment.
But even that $1.28bn pot would not be enough to offer similar payments to all of the country’s 23 000-strong security forces.
The revolt led to President Alassane Ouattara ordering major changes in top security ranks – the armed forces’ chief of staff, the senior commander of the national gendarmerie and the director-general of the police.
The mutiny came as a constitutional reform saw former prime minister Daniel Kablan Duncan sworn in as vice president – with some analysts saying he could well be placed to step into Ouattara’s shoes in future.
But some analysts wonder whether another former premier, ex-rebel leader Guillaume Soro, may have harboured presidential ambitions of his own, seeing a possible link between the army mutiny and the reshuffle.
Soro, who was elected parliament speaker in January, attended Kablan’s swearing-in ceremony, and has consistently backed Ivory Coast’s constitutional reform however.
The International Monetary Fund said in December that Ivory Coast was on track towards becoming the continent’s fastest-growing economy.
The mutinies, however, have raised fears the country might slip back into deadly unrest.
A rebellion in 2002 sliced the former French colony into a rebel-held north and government-controlled south, triggering years of unrest.