Soldiers riot in western towns

Two towns in western Cote d’Ivoire have been shut off by two days of riots by disgruntled Ivorian soldiers.

Troops started rampaging through the town of Duékoué, 400 km north west of the commercial capital Abidjan, on the morning of 24 March, protesting the murder of a low-ranking soldier by robbers the night before, Commandant Vazoumana, a gendarme in Duékoué told IRIN.

“We have been unable to leave our houses,” Flora Gbazé, a civilian in Duékoué, said on 24 March. “Since the morning soldiers have been shooting in the air.” Later the same day riots broke out in nearby Guiglo, army sources in the town told IRIN.

According to a humanitarian source in the region, one civilian death has been confirmed by stray gunfire.

Rioting continued in Guiglo on 25 March, however in Duékoué the soldiers spent the day in negotiations with government officials, a humanitarian official familiar with the situation told IRIN.

The soldiers were demanding the resignation of the governor in the region, the source told IRIN.

“The signals coming from both the government and military leaders are not at all clear,” the source said, noting that Ivorian soldiers had been petitioning the regional authorities to improve their security arrangements for some weeks.

While Cote d’Ivoire has been progressing towards peace since a peace deal was signed in 2006 between rebels who had been controlling the north of the country and the government, the department of Duékoué has been seen as less stable.

There have been clashes between different ethnic groups in the area, as well as disputes over access to cocoa fields and returns by people displaced during a brief civil war in 2002.

UN agencies including the World Food Programme, UN Children’s Fund, UN Refugee Agency, and non-governmental groups Solidarite and Save the Children all have projects in the Guiglo area.