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Posts tagged ‘Land of the White Ivory’

Ivory Coast announces deal to end standoff with soldiers

January 14, 2017

BOUAKE, Ivory Coast (AP) — Ivory Coast announced a deal Friday night to end a standoff with soldiers who staged a mutiny last week, though the terms were not confirmed and it was unclear whether security would be fully restored in Africa’s fastest-growing economy.

The deal was reached after tense negotiations in Bouake, the country’s second-largest city, between soldiers and a delegation led by the defense minister, said government spokesman Bruno Kone. In the hours before the deal was announced, hundreds of soldiers converged on the house where the negotiations were taking place, and gunfire erupted at multiple military bases in Abidjan, the commercial capital.

The mutineers’ demands included unpaid bonuses, higher salaries, faster promotions and improved living conditions. The bonuses amounted to nearly $20,000 each for more than 8,000 soldiers, according to several people who participated in the negotiations.

Officials would not confirm the terms of the deal, but one soldier, who insisted on anonymity, said the government had agreed to pay the bonuses in installments beginning with payments of over $8,000 to each soldier on Monday. If accurate, the resolution could end up costing the government over $150 million for the bonuses alone.

It is the second time the government has announced a deal to end the standoff. President Alassane Ouattara said a deal was reached Jan. 7, one day after the mutiny began. But almost as soon as that first deal was announced, some soldiers in Bouake made clear they were dissatisfied with it, firing their weapons and temporarily holding the defense minister hostage.

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.

Ivory Coast has seen about 10 mutinies since 1990, with the most recent taking place in 2014. Ouattara has criticized the soldiers’ tactics during the latest crisis, and many Ivorians expressed frustration with the renewed unrest. Before the talks began Friday, soldiers fired weapons to disperse a protest by civilians in Bouake who were angry that the standoff had disrupted economic activity in the city, said Fanta Kourouma, a Bouake resident.

The security situation deteriorated quickly Friday evening, with soldiers assuming control of main roads in Bouake. Phone service to the city was severely impaired for several hours. In Abidjan, witnesses reported gunfire at military installations in the residential Cocody district and in the central Plateau district, where Camp Gallieni, the army headquarters, is located.

A gendarmerie official in Plateau, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the press, said he heard shots near the gendarmerie headquarters there. “They chased our guys from their post,” he said, referring to the mutinous soldiers.

The mutiny shows that while progress has been made in demobilizing tens of thousands of combatants and reintegrating fighters from various factions since the 2011 conflict, a sense of discipline and respect for a chain of command are still lacking, said Cynthia Ohayon, West Africa analyst for the International Crisis Group.

Corey-Boulet reported from Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Associated Press writer Alexis Adele contributed from Abidjan.

I.Coast’s mutinous soldiers withdraw after deal

08 January 2017 Sunday

Ivory Coast’s mutinous soldiers withdrew from the streets of the second city Bouake Sunday after the president announced a deal on their demands for bonuses, pay rises, housing and faster promotion.

“There has been no firing since Saturday night,” a correspondent in Bouake said. “Traffic has resumed this morning and the shops have reopened.”

In Abidjan — a bustling seaport that is home to the presidency and parliament — national television reported that shots had been fired at the eastern Akouedo barracks on Saturday morning.

On Sunday, Abidjan’s central Plateau area where several government offices and leading businesses are located, was calm.

“Life is back to normal,” a resident said.

The same was true for the northern city of Korhogo and Man in the west. A Man resident, who identified himself as Jean, said: “The soldiers have returned to their barracks.”

On Saturday evening President Alassane Ouattara announced an agreement had been reached. In a brief televised address he said it took into account “the demands relating to bonuses and improving the living conditions of soldiers”.

“Having given my agreement, I ask all soldiers to go back to their barracks to allow decisions to be carried out calmly,” he added, without giving any details of the accord.

The soldiers had detained Defence Minister Alain Richard Donwahi on Saturday for two hours in a tense standoff over their demands, firing Kalashnikovs and heavy arms around the home of a senior local official where Donwahi was meeting with the soldiers’ representatives.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/182836/icoasts-mutinous-soldiers-withdraw-after-deal.

Ivory Coast president says deal reached to end army mutiny

January 08, 2017

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast (AP) — Ivory Coast’s president said a deal was reached Saturday to end a two-day army mutiny that renewed security concerns in the world’s top cocoa producer and Africa’s fastest-growing economy.

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. The defense ministry then released a statement denying Donwahi had been held against his will, saying he was merely continuing negotiations.

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. Despite the government’s attempt at a quick resolution, the incident points to lingering problems with Ivory Coast’s recovery, said Cynthia Ohayon, West Africa analyst for the International Crisis Group.

“This is another reminder that the longstanding issues that led to the crisis are still unresolved,” she said. “Some people forget and think that everything is going well in Ivory Coast. I think this should be toned down.”

For most of Saturday, the mutiny appeared to be gaining momentum with alarming speed. Heavy gunfire erupted at a military camp in Abidjan, Ivory Coast’s largest city, and barricades were erected in the city center amid unconfirmed reports that mutinous soldiers had reached the military headquarters and defense ministry. The ministry denied those reports on its Facebook page

Gunfire was also reported in Bouake for a second straight day and in the western city of Man. Abidjan residents stocked up on food and water amid fears the city could see more violence. The U.S. embassy advised staffers to keep off roads and to stay near their homes, while France advised restricting travel to the country’s interior and avoiding military camps in Abidjan.

Ivory Coast is no stranger to mutinies, having experienced about 10 since 1990, according to Maggie Dwyer, an expert on mutinies in West Africa at the University of Edinburgh. Like Ohayon, Dwyer warned that the resolution announced Saturday might not hold.

“If your soldiers are coming to the streets for pay, there are probably deeper tensions within the military structure, and those often go unaddressed,” she said.

Associated Press journalist Hilaire Zon contributed reporting from Abidjan.

Côte d’Ivoire’s Tech Solutions to Local Problems

By Marc-Andre Boisvert

ABIDJAN, Apr 15 2014 (IPS) – When Ivorian Thierry N’Doufou saw local school kids suffering under the weight of their backpacks full of textbooks, it sparked an idea of how to close the digital gap where it is the largest — in local schoolrooms.

N’Doufou is one of 10 Ivorian IT specialists who developed the Qelasy — an 8-inch, Ivorian-engineered tablet that is set to be released next month by his technology company Siregex.

“It is more than me feeling sorry for them. It is also about filling the digital gap between the south and the north, and bringing Ivorian education into the 21st century,” N’Doufou tells IPS.

Qelasy means “classroom” in several African languages, including Akan, Malinke, Lingala and Bamileke.

The Qelasy team began by converting all government-approved Ivorian textbooks into digital format.

“We were obligated to process everything in a way to have quality images for high definition screens. It is a lot of work,” explains N’Doufou, who is CEO of Siregex.

“We also enriched the curriculum with images and videos in way to make the educational experience more convivial.”

A solution to Ivorian problems

The tablet uses an Android operating system and is resistant to water splashes, dust, humidity and heat.

“The Qelasy is protected against everything that an African pupil without transportation might encounter during their walk home from school,” says N’Doufou.

“We knew we needed our own product … Our clients’ needs are very specific,” he explained.

The parent- and teacher-controlled tablet replaces all textbooks, correspondence books, calculators and the individual chalkboards often used in Ivorian classrooms.

It can also be programmed to allow kids to surf the web or play games according to a pre-defined timetable. Siregex staff has also developed a store where parents and educators can buy over 1,000 elements like apps, educational materials and books.

While the Qelasy is currently focused on education, its marketing director Fabrice Dan tells IPS that users will soon be able to use it for other things. “We believe in technology as a way to create positive changes. And we believe in education. But eventually, we will present solutions in other fields, like agriculture and microcredit,” he says.

Qelasy was launched at Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress 2014.  Exactly how much it will sell for has not yet been determined, but it is expected to be priced between 275 and 315 dollars.

That’s a steep price in a country where, according to government figures, only two million of its 23 million people are classified as middle class, earning between two and 20 dollars a day.

While N’Doufou expects the government to purchase a few tablets for use in schools, this product will mostly benefit the country’s middle and upper classes.

For now, it is only available for the Ivorian market, but the firm is targeting Francophone and Anglophone Africa.

However, the biggest challenge to the success of the product remains the electricity deficit. In a country where, according to the World Bank, only 59 percent of the population has access to electricity, a tablet with an eight-hour battery life faces limited penetration.

But N’Doufou says “There is an 80 percent cellphone penetration rate in Côte d’Ivoire in spite of the low electricity penetration. People find solutions in villages. They will for this too.”

While N’Doufou says “most of the know-how comes from here,” the Qelasy was assembled in the Chinese manufacturing hub of Shenzen, where 10,000 units have been produced.

Other Ivorian Tech Solutions

The Qelasy is merely the latest in locally-developed technologies designed specifically to answer Ivorian problems.

Last week, young Ivorian programmer Regis Bamba launched an app to record the license plate numbers and other details of taxis. Taxi Tracker allows a user to send this information about the taxi they are traveling in to selected users who can follow their journey in real time.

It is an attempt to find a way to prevent incidents like the murder of young Ivorian model Awa Fadiga, who was attacked during a taxi ride home in March.

The story of Fadiga’s tragic death gripped the nation as it exposed gaps in the country’s security and healthcare systems. She had been left untreated in a comatose state for more than 12 hours at a local hospital, which allegedly refused to treat her until payment for her care was received.

“It is my reaction to her death. I saw her picture, and I thought that could be my little sister. I told myself that I could not just sit back with my arms crossed,” Bamba tells IPS.

“It is my concrete solution as a citizen until the authorities do something meaningful to protect citizens. So Awa’s death will not be in vain.”

Another application, Mô Ni Bah, was developed by Jean Delmas Ehui in 2013 and allows Ivorians to declare births through SMS.

Trained locals then transfer the information provided in the SMSes to a registration authority. It has been another important invention in a country where the great distance between rural areas and government centers has hindered birth registration. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, almost a third of births are undeclared here.

Bacely Yoro Bi, a technology evangelist, internet strategist and organizer of ConnecTIC — a gathering of Abidjan’s IT enthusiasts — says there is definitively a boom in the local IT business.

“There is a lot happening here in terms of technology, although it is still limited to Abidjan. There are several start-ups that have been created with a local focus,” he tells IPS.

Part of the success, says Yoro Bi, is because of the cooperation among developers.

“Qelasy has been possible because there is a techie community that support each other,” N’Doufou points out.

Yoro Bi says that Côte d’Ivoire’s inventions should be exported to the rest of West Africa and to the world.

With the creation of two free trade zones dedicated to technology in Abidjan’s suburbs, and investments in internet infrastructure, he predicts that inventors like N’Doufou and Bamba now have the potential to go beyond the national borders.

Source: Inter-Press Service (IPS).

Link: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/04/cote-divoires-tech-solutions-local-problems/.

Côte d’Ivoire’s Middle Class – Growing or Disappearing?

By Marc-Andre Boisvert

ABIDJAN, Mar 27 2014 (IPS) – “I’m middle class. Definitively,” Sonia Anoh, a young and independent 30-year-old Ivorian tells IPS. Anoh has a master’s degree, earns 1,470 dollars a month working in marketing, lives alone, owns a car and is now shopping for a home.

But while Anoh freely talks about her economic status, not many others brag so easily about being middle class in this West African nation.

Defining the African “middle class” is a challenge. For the World Bank, it comprises everyone who earns between two and 20 dollars per day. It’s a range that is far too broad and while the African Development Bank uses the same income range, it emphasizes the need to subdivide the middle class into two.

The upper middle class, by this definition, earns between 10 and 20 dollars a day, and a vulnerable lower class is one that earns between two and four dollars a day. The latter are just marginally above the poverty line of 1.5 dollars a day and can easily slip back into it.

Côte d’Ivoire used to have the strongest middle class in West Africa until it was seriously hit by the post-1980 economic meltdown and the recent post-electoral political crisis from 2010 to 2011. More than 3,000 people died in the violence that followed former Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to concede victory to current President Allassane Ouattara. Now the Ivorian middle class represents over two million of this country’s 23 million inhabitants, according to government figures.

While Côte d’Ivoire’s middle class may have shrunk, there are signs that this economic group appears to be slowly starting to increase. But its expansion remains limited by two decades of economic problems and conflict.

According to the Moscow-based Institute for Emerging Market Studies, the African middle class will rise three times from 32 million in 2009 to 107 million by 2030 — the largest increase in the world. And with the World Bank predicting that Côte d’Ivoire’s economy will grow at a rate of 8.2 percent for 2014, there is hope that this boom will lift many more of the country’s people out of poverty.

Growing or disappearing?

“Building a strong middle class was an important preoccupation for former president Félix Houphouet-Boigny (1905-1993),” Professor Marcel Benie Kouadio, economist and dean at the Abidjan Private University Faculty tells IPS.

“At the time, [middle class] meant mostly civil servants, doctors, magistrates and other liberal workers.

“Houphouet-Boigny [implemented] several policies to transform a middle class dependent on the state into an entrepreneur class. The state fostered the middle class to invest in cocoa or palm oil plantations as a way to build a middle class that would also be able to produce goods.”

Jean Coffie is a retired civil servant and an example of what Houphouet-Boigny dreamt of for the middle class. He is an entrepreneur who lives off his investments.

“My pension is not enough to live on. But I invested in hevea [rubber trees]. Income is random but I still earn more with that than from my government pension,” he tells IPS.

With this extra money, he is helping pay for his grandson’s studies in France. But Coffie is quick to point out that life for a middle class Ivorian is not what it used to be.

“At the time [during Houphouet-Boigny’s presidency], we had a lot of support to develop ourselves. University [education] and health care were more accessible. We might still be middle class but we lost all our privileges.”

Benie Kouadio agrees.

“The middle class has shrunk. Twenty years ago, teachers and doctors were middle class. Now, they can’t afford a new car. The Ivorian middle class lost its purchase power.”

A consumer class

Purchase power is a key word. Accountants differ with economists in their understanding of the middle class; rather than analyzing income, they look at disposable revenue.

Being middle class is about hitting a “sweet spot”, where people are able to spend money for things other than survival, says a report from accounting firm Ernst & Young.

Marcel Anné is the managing director of the supermarket chain Jour de Marché, which is situated in downtown Abidjan, the country’s economic capital. He has a good view of the emerging consumer class.

“Actually, this supermarket is less crowded than it used to be but this is more about changing consumer habits. This used to be [a] central [spot] for the middle class. Civil servants would buy things here and then go home,” he tells IPS.

The middle class here has become a more diverse, complex grouping that is not necessarily just comprised of civil servants anymore. The privatization of companies, the need for qualified labor work in IT and on the new oil and gas fields have diversified this economic grouping.

So now Jour de Marché has opened “more, smaller supermarkets where the middle class live.”

And around Abidjan, the housing boom too suggests that there is a rising middle class.

Riviera Palmeraie, a former plantation where palm oil trees were cut down to make space for several small bungalows, has been one of the first major housing developments in Abidjan based on affordable units.

And now similar developments are slowly spreading across the city and beyond.

Ousmane Bah is the director of Alliance Cote d’Ivoire, one of the companies building middle class housing. His company will build the Akwaba Residence, one of many housing developments being constructed along Abidjan’s outskirts. Prices for homes start at 21,000 dollars for a two-room home and 36,100 dollars for four rooms.

“It targets mostly the young professionals starting up in life, as well as civil servants,” he tells IPS.

His project, like several others, is supported by the government and is part of an initiative to boost social housing for the middle class.

The government targets households with revenue of less than 840 dollars per month. Buyers only need to provide a 10 percent cash deposit, and then benefit from a government-backed loan with low interest rates of 5.5 percent.

It addresses a difficult problem that seriously limits the growth of the Ivorian middle class: lack of credit.

“People are not used to buying flats here. They rent. Credit institutions are not used to provide housing loans. This is a big issue. We cannot simply build and expect people to buy,” says Bah.

Mohamed Diabaté is the first to agree.

“This is ridiculous. I wanted to get a credit for my house. It was easier to get credit to buy a goat for a Muslim holiday than having a real sustainable project. They did not even look at my file,” the 40-year-old IT specialist tells IPS.

He says even though he has a “comfortable revenue” and a steady job for 12 years, he could not obtain a home loan.

Benie Kouadio points out that “this is a clear limitation to the growth of the middle class. The middle class has no access to credit. Banks do not give loans for housing or cars any more.”

Source: Inter-Press Service (IPS).

Link: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/03/cote-divoires-middle-class-growing-disappearing/.

Disarmament brigade attacked in Ivory Coast

July 3, 2013

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, July 3 (UPI) — The United Nations condemned a deadly attack on a brigade charged with a disarmament campaign under way in Ivory Coast.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast, known by its French initials UNOCI, said it stood in support of a national disarmament, demobilization and reintegration campaign meant to restore nationwide security in a country divided by civil conflict in 2002.

The mission said at least one person was killed and three others were wounded when the brigade’s convoy came under attack early this week by gunmen in the northwest.

UNOCI said the brigade’s director general was travelling in the convoy but escaped injury. The mission said it was calling for swift justice nonetheless.

In a statement published Tuesday, UNOCI said it was calling “on the competent Ivorian authorities to take all measures to identify the authors of the attack and bring them before the law.”

Presidential elections in Ivory Coast in 2010 were meant to unite a country divided by war. Rival claims to victory, however, pushed the country to the brink of civil war.

Human Rights Watch said in a Monday report extortion was common among security forces operating in western Ivory Coast near the eastern border with Liberia.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2013/07/03/Disarmament-brigade-attacked-in-Ivory-Coast/UPI-16931372864868/.

Ivory Coast littered with weapons

April 16, 2013

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, April 16 (UPI) — Ivory Coast is still flush with weapons more than two years after an end to post-election conflict, a researcher from Amnesty International said.

Laurent Gbagbo was arrested with the help of French peacekeepers in April 2011 following the political violence. Ggabgo refused to stand down as president despite international recognition that Alassane Ouattara won a contest meant to unite a country divided by war.

Gbagbo is awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court for crimes allegedly committed during the post-election violence. Rights groups say Ouattara supporters may have played a role in the crisis as well.

Human Rights Watch estimates that at least 3,000 people died in fighting from November 2010 to May 2011. Amnesty International West African researcher Salvatore Sagues told the United Nations’ humanitarian news agency IRIN that Ivory Coast is littered with weapons despite an arms embargo enacted in 2004.

“Arms continued to be delivered to pro-Gbagbo forces during the 2011 post-election crisis” he said. “This shows that even a U.N. arms embargo is not enough to stop the illegal trade of weapons.”

U.N. officials said they were keeping a close tab on security developments ahead of local elections scheduled Sunday in Ivory Coast.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/Special/2013/04/16/Ivory-Coast-littered-with-weapons/UPI-54811366119840/.

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