President Alassane Ouattara made the announcement during a cabinet meeting Saturday evening. Earlier in the day, his defense minister, Alain-Richard Donwahi, led a delegation to negotiate with disgruntled soldiers in the country’s second-largest city, Bouake, where the mutiny that saw troops shooting their weapons began Friday morning.
But in an early sign not everyone was on board, mutineers in Bouake fired Kalashnikov rifles and other weapons again after Ouattara’s announcement, trapping Donwahi in the home of a local official along with other members of his delegation and journalists.
The group was finally able to leave just before 10 p.m., said one of the hostages, Aboubacar Al Syddick, a journalist for the local newspaper L’Intelligent d’Abidjan.
In his announcement, Ouattara said he was willing to take into account soldiers’ demands for more money and an improvement in their living and working conditions, but he criticized the mutineers’ tactics.
“I want to say that this manner of demanding is not appropriate. In fact, it tarnishes the image of our country after all of our efforts at economic development and diplomatic repositioning,” he said.
Ouattara came to power in 2011 after a postelection crisis that claimed more than 3,000 lives. The crisis was triggered by former President Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to accept defeat and step down. It capped more than a decade of turmoil that began with the country’s first coup in 1999.
The new president faced enormous challenges in trying to create a unified army. Analysts had predicted the government would offer payoffs to defuse this week’s crisis, as it did when soldiers staged a similar revolt in 2014.
The details of the deal were not immediately available.