Ivory Coast to reduce size of army by paying off soldiers
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Africa’s fastest-growing economy last year, Ivory Coast was hit earlier this year by successive uprisings by low-ranking troops. The costly bonuses paid to end the unrest helped to balloon the budget deficit this year, and the episode tarnished its image as one of the continent’s rising economic stars.
The government said last week that it would retire about 1000 soldiers by the end of the year as part of efforts to bring the force - estimated at about 25000 troops - in line with “accepted standards”.
A spokesperson did not say last week how much the soldiers would receive under the voluntary scheme. However, a document obtained by Reuters outlining the plan stated that each retired soldier would receive a payment of 15m CFA francs.
Neither the spokesperson nor Ivory Coast’s defence minister were available to comment yesterday.
Diplomats said the move signalled that the government was beginning to implement a military reform law. According to a copy of the law seen by Reuters, 4400 troops are to leave the army over four years. It was not immediately clear if the figure includes soldiers already scheduled to retire during the period.
Ivory Coast’s army was thrown together from rival loyalist and rebel factions at the end of a 2011 civil war that brought President Alassane Ouattara to power after his predecessor, Laurent Gbagbo, rejected his defeat in a 2010 run-off election.
Diplomats and analysts say the force is bloated with unqualified personnel.
An adviser to Parliament Speaker Guillaume Soro, considered a leading candidate to replace term-limited Ouattara in 2020, was arrested in October after a secret arms cache at his home helped mutinying soldiers to halt a loyalist advance.
Soro and his supporters say the charges were politically motivated.