Ivory Coast soldiers return to barracks after protests over pay

Ivory Coast soldiers returned to their barracks on Wednesday after protests over a pay dispute in several cities that saw them storm a TV station and set up barricades, soldiers and residents said.

AFP| Last Updated: Nov 19, 2014, 16:23 PM IST

Yamoussoukro: Ivory Coast soldiers returned to their barracks on Wednesday after protests over a pay dispute in several cities that saw them storm a TV station and set up barricades, soldiers and residents said.

The West African nation`s defence and interior ministers promised measures aimed at meeting the soldiers` demands, and a meeting was set for later Wednesday between government officials and military representatives.

Tuesday`s protests sparked deep concern in the world`s largest cocoa exporter three years after the end of a long crisis that had for a period split the country in two.

"Calm has returned in the barracks and throughout the country," a military officer told a news agency on condition of anonymity.

"The protesters are waiting for the result of the meeting" set for Wednesday afternoon.

Waves of protests involving hundreds of soldiers began in the second-largest city of Bouake on Tuesday before extending to the economic capital Abidjan; Ferkessedougou and Khorogo in the north; and Bondoukou and Abengourou in the east.

In Bouake, unarmed soldiers took over the state TV and radio station and said they wanted to broadcast a message related to their demands, while also setting up barricades on the streets.

Soldiers and firefighters in Abidjan held up traffic in the central Plateau district, where several ministries as well as the presidential palace are located.

A news agency's correspondent in Bouake said barricades had been removed and stores had re-opened.

"It is like nothing happened yesterday," said taxi driver Salif Konate, adding however that Tuesday`s tensions "reminded us of the crisis years."

A number of soldiers wanted back pay dating to 2009, and Interior Minister Hamed Bakayoko said that demand would be met.

Bouake served as the rebel capital when civil raged from 2002 to 2007.

The rebels who controlled the country`s north backed current President Alassane Ouattara, while the south supported former head of state Laurent Gbagbo.

In November 2010, Ouattara won a long-postponed Presidential Election, but the outcome of the poll was violently disputed by followers of the incumbent Gbagbo, at the cost of some 3,000 more lives until Gbagbo was arrested in April 2011.

Security sources alleged former rebels integrated into the military in 2009 were at the origin of the protests on Tuesday before they later spread.