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Ivory Coast Begins Paying Bonuses to Mutinous Soldiers

Lieutenant-Colonel Issiaka Ouattara, named Wattao, and Lieutenant-Colonel Cherif Ousmane greet mutinous soldiers, at the airport in Bouake, Ivory Coast, Jan. 13, 2017.

Ivory Coast's government has begun paying bonuses to soldiers who staged a two-day mutiny earlier this month, leaders of the revolt said on Tuesday, in a move aimed at quelling unrest that could undermine the country's post-war success story.

Soldiers poured out of their barracks and seized the top cocoa grower's second-largest city, Bouake, on Jan. 6 in an uprising that quickly spread across the West African nation, forcing the government to capitulate to the mutineers' demands.

Negotiators for the mutineers say that, among other promises, the government agreed to pay bonuses of 12 million CFA francs ($19,541) each to around 8,400 soldiers, beginning with an installment of 5 million.

Government officials have declined to reveal details of the deal. Defense Minister Alain-Richard Donwahi would not confirm the payments but said the government planned to make a statement on the issue after a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

"The treasury began transferring money into bank accounts last night, but not everyone has received their money for the moment," said Seydou Camara, a soldier who negotiated on behalf of the mutineers.

A second mutiny leader confirmed the payments had begun.

Donwahi led a delegation to Bouake on Friday for a second round of talks after the bonuses were not paid last week as expected, leaving the soldiers - most of them former rebel fighters — poised to relaunch their revolt.

Ivory Coast has emerged from a 2002-2011 crisis marked by two civil wars as one of the world's fastest-growing economies under the leadership of President Alassane Ouattara.

But critics say few Ivorians have benefited from the boom and accuse Ouattara of neglecting problems left over from the conflict years, including an army thrown together from rival rebel and loyalist factions that is still riddled with divisions.