Ivory Coast ex-rebel commanders promoted after mutiny deal

AP News
|
Posted: Jan 27, 2017 6:49 AM

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Ivory Coast's president has promoted two former rebel commanders who sided with the government in talks to quell a mutiny earlier this month.

President Alassane Ouattara's office announced late Thursday that Lt. Col. Issiaka Ouattara would now lead the Republican Guard, where he was formerly second-in-command. It also said Lt. Col. Cherif Ousmane would move from the presidential guard to head an elite commando unit.

The two were rebel commanders during the civil war that split Ivory Coast from 2002 to 2011. They were also instrumental in the 2011 conflict that brought Ouattara to power after his rival, ex-President Laurent Gbagbo, refused to cede office. That power struggle claimed more than 3,000 lives.

On Jan. 6, former rebels-turned-soldiers in Bouake, the old rebel capital, mutinied over grievances including unpaid bonuses promised for their role in the conflict. The uprising quickly spread to other cities including the commercial hub, Abidjan.

Issiaka Ouattara and Ousmane joined the government delegation, led by Defense Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi, that negotiated a deal involving handsome payoffs. Mutineers said the government agreed to pay bonuses of nearly $20,000 to more than 8,000 soldiers, though the government has not confirmed that figure.

Following the deal, Donwahi promised to "regain control of this army so that it is really at the service of the nation."

But the promotions are sure to anger critics who blame the government for failing to rein in former rebel commanders. In 2011, Human Rights Watch listed Ousmane as one of the pro-Ouattara combatants implicated in grave crimes committed during the postelection crisis.

___

Associated Press writer Robbie Corey-Boulet in Abidjan contributed.