ABIDJAN Demobilised rebel fighters seized control of main roads leading into Ivory Coast's second city, Bouake, on Monday, demanding the payment of bonuses and their integration into the army and state institutions, a spokesman for the group said.
The renewed unrest comes months after the city was the centre of a wave of army mutinies that paralysed the world's top cocoa grower and dealt a blow to its image as one of Africa's most promising economies.
The soldiers, some wearing balaclavas or their faces blackened with ashes, set up barricades, sealing off the main road leading south to Abidjan and the capital Yamoussoukro.
"Some of them have weapons but many of them don't," said Bouake resident Isabelle Kouassi, whose bus was turned back as it was attempting to leave the city. "They've blocked everything."
Mamadou Ouattara, who described himself as the spokesman for the group, said the Bouake protesters represented some 6,800 former fighters who were demobilised after Ivory Coast's civil war in 2011.
They are demanding the payment of bonuses worth 12 million CFA francs ($20,000) per soldier as well as jobs in the armed forces and government services, he said.
"We're asking for President Alassane Ouattara to have a thought for his sons, who have suffered for 15 years," he said.
(Reporting by Ange Aboa and Joe Bavier; Writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)