A month after the unexpected mutiny in the army and public service servants’ strike that shook Cote d’Ivoire, the authorities are trying to resume control over the situation that deeply affected the peaceful image Cote d’Ivoire tried to show after the post-electoral crisis of 2011.
As we wrote in one of our previous articles in October 2016, the last few months of 2016 and the beginning of 2017 confirmed our thesis that it could actually be the most important period in Cote d’Ivoire’s political history. First of all, on December 2016, the legislative elections took place and saw a very large number of independent candidates which was quite unusual. This is because both political parties that constitute RHDP, the alliance in power, RDR and PDCI, decided in most cases to not present candidates from either of their parties for the same seats. This, therefore, excluded many people in who felt rejected and then decided not to respect their respective party’s decision. In the end, RHDP still managed to win the elections with a large majority (167 of 254 seats), but a large number of independents (79) still managed to win some seats, which also demonstrated the distrust of the people regarding the choice of RHDP candidates. This was the case in many localities with the most famous examples being Cocody where Yasmina Ouegnin, the RHDP candidate for the past elections won over Affoussy Bamba, the Minister of Communication, a RDR member and the new pick of RHDP because Mrs Ouegnin is considered as a rebel in RHDP. But overall, even if the participation was quite low and didn’t really gather much interest from the population, RHDP won the majority and most of the key figures kept or won their seats, which satisfied the authorities.
With the new constitution being voted and the members of Parliament elected, Cote d’Ivoire was supposed to enter its third Republic in a smooth way with the installation of a new government and new institutions such as: the President of Parliament, the Vice President and the Prime Minister. Although, few days before the vote for the new President of Parliament, an unexpected mutiny broke out in Bouake, the second largest city in the country, and in other major cities, even in some military camps in Abidjan. Around 8,500 soldiers who belonged to the former rebellion joined the army after the post electoral crisis. They were each promised almost $20,000 and a house during the crisis. The Minister of Defense, M. Alain-Richard Donwahi, was sent to negotiate with them, and President Ouattara decided to accept their request. The military men put a stop to the mutiny but this crisis raised many questions in the country. The mutiny seemed to be very well coordinated and the identity of the “real” beneficiaries of this movement created a lot of speculation.
Many believed that Guillaume Soro, former head of the rebellion, prime minister and current President of the Parliament was behind that mutiny, in order to put some pressure on the authorities so he could keep his seat, as there were rumours that he would be facing the ICC soon. There were also rumours that he had nothing to do with the mutiny, but, in addition to that, the amount the soldiers from the rebellion were supposed to receive also caused concerns. They were asking for $165 million, which is a pretty huge amount in local currency, and while the government accepted their request, they were refusing the demands from civil servants who were on strike because of a decrease in their salaries. Both the civil servants and the citizens of Cote d’Ivoire felt that it was unfair that the public servants couldn’t get a positive answer or even a chance to negotiate with the authorities because they don’t have weapons, unlike the military men.
While the situation was still very tense, President Ouattara appointed a new Vice President and Prime Minister and fired the head of the Army and the Police. Daniel Kablan Duncan, the Prime Minister became VP and Amadou Gon Coulibaly, the Secretary General of the Presidency became Prime Minister. On January 11th a new government was appointed and while all the sovereign ministers stayed in place, some major changes were made. Adama Toungara, Minister of Energy and a key figure of RDR was replaced by Thierry Tanoh, former Deputy Secretary General of the Presidency and Ecobank CEO. Other major changes include the removal of Affoussy Bamba, who lost during the legislative elections, from the Ministry of Communication and of Jean-Louis Billon from the Ministry of Trade, who preferred going back to Sifca, one of the biggest private sector company owned by his family.
Immediately after the new government was installed, President Ouattara instructed the Prime Minister and the cabinet to take care of this unprecedented military and social crisis that has been on since 2011. And even if a deal was supposedly reached with the military men, the mutiny continued over two successive weekends in January and the strike in the public service lasted the whole month, almost paralysing the economy.
A month after these events happened, the situation appears to be back to normal, but there are still serious questions about Cote d’Ivoire’s future and stability. In 2014, a similar mutiny took place and according to many sources, the military men which were protesting early 2017 had already been paid back then. Since their requests have always been approved, and they are the ones with weapons, for how long will Cote d’Ivoire be held hostage by these men?
As the 2020 elections draw closer, the stability of the country remains a huge question. The mutiny raises questions about the leadership of the army – who is really in charge? – and how will the elections turn out?
For now, many international investors and multinational companies are reluctant to continue working in and with Cote d’Ivoire, with some asking the families of their employees living in in the country to move back home, fearing that the situation may end up to be like the post-election situation in 2011. Though things may seem to be back to normal, recent events such as President Ouattara’s succession, the reform of the army, the distribution of growth revenues among the population and social justice appear to be a crucial points to be taken care of in order to maintain the stability of the country in the long run.
The next few months will definitely tell us where the country is heading in the future. Also, the brief mutiny on February 7th confirms that the calm was very fragile and that pandora’s box has been opened, with anybody holding a gun able to take the whole country hostage.