On 6 January, a wave of mutinies began after soldiers seized Bouaké, the country’s second largest city. Over the weekend, it spread to other cities (including Abidjan) and the defence minister was even briefly kidnapped. On 13 January, a deal was struck with the government who promised to pay owed bonuses and improve soldiers’ living conditions in return for the soldiers going back to their barracks. To reaffirm his control, president Ouattara sacked army and police chiefs. This happened almost simultaneously with the resignation of Prime Minister Duncan and the dissolving of the government in anticipation of the implementation of a new constitution passed in a referendum in October 2016.

Impact on country risk

In 2014, another army mutiny also resulted in financial settlements, as the government has little option but to pay and stem the damage being done to the country’s image. Also now, the swiftness with which the mutiny was quelled reassured investors. In fact, the mutiny appears to have done little to dent faith in the president’s ability to continue the success story of one of Africa’s best performing economies. Côte d’Ivoire’s economic and financial fundamentals improved significantly since 2011 while strong policymaking and reforms remain on track. However, between 2001 and 2011, the country was tarnished by conflict and political crises, resulting in an army that consists of a patchwork of ex-warlords and rebels integrated into the national army. Most of the soldiers that left the barracks in January were former rebels in the brief civil war (in which 3,000 people were killed) that followed the 2010 elections, won by Ouattara. Even though there is little chance for a return to a full-blown civil conflict, the president’s failure to rein in the army could still threaten economic recovery and political stability, which makes lacking military reform and reconciliation foremost loopholes for the West African nation’s outlook. Besides, these army factions emphasise general civil servants’ grievances of feeling left out of the economic boom.

Analyst: Louise Van Cauwenbergh, l.vancauwenbergh@credendo.com