By: Olivier Monnier
Three ex-rebels in Ivory Coast were killed Tuesday when police broke up a road blockade to end a protest by the former fighters over bonus payments.
As many as 19 people, including five police personnel and gendarmes, were injured in the fighting in Bouake, the second-biggest city, Interior and Security Minister Hamed Bakayoko said in an emailed statement. The assault came after the protesters rejected talks to end their blockade of the southern access road to the town, Bakayoko said.
The three people died when protesters “pulled the pin out of an offensive grenade which exploded,” he said in the statement.
The violence comes less than a week after a four-day mutiny by another group of former rebels who are now part of the army. The mutineers paralyzed several cities in the world’s biggest cocoa-producing country as they asked for outstanding payments of 7 million CFA francs ($11,915) as part of bonuses that were pledged for backing President Alassane Ouattara during a decade of conflict that ended in 2011.
The soldiers halted their protest May 16 when the government agreed to the payments.
Cocoa futures traded at a six-week high last week on nervousness that the unrest in Bouake, one of the centers of the country’s cocoa trade, might disrupt supplies. Beans for delivery in July fell 0.7 percent on Tuesday to $2,021 a metric ton on ICE Futures U.S.
Riot police and gendarmes were responsible for Tuesday’s violence, Amadou Ouattara, a spokesman for almost 7,000 ex-fighters, said by phone from Bouake. Security forces threw the grenade, shot at protesters and also used tear gas, he said.
The protesters are former rebels who helped President Ouattara come to power, but who weren’t integrated into the army after 2011. They demand the payment of 18 million CFA francs of bonuses for each of them for their services, the spokesman said.
“We’re calling on our comrades to remain calm to avoid further damages,” he said. “Let’s sit around a table and talk.”