A corporal in the army in 1999, the first year of Ivory Coast's 12-year-long political crisis, Wattao rose to become one of the most powerful commanders in the New Forces, a rebel movement headed by a former student leader named Guillaume Soro.
During the New Forces' nine-year occupation of the north, which effectively split the country in two, the rebels divided their territory into multiple zones. Each was headed by a commander known as a com'zone. The com'zones – Wattao was one – were responsible for security and collecting revenues that were funneled to a treasury known as "La Centrale."
La Centrale was dissolved after the end of the civil war in 2011 and the commanders integrated into the army.
But according to a 2013 report by the UN investigators, some of the former com'zones took advantage of their integration to extend "their warlord-style predatory economic activities," including the control of gold and diamond mines, smuggling cocoa, cotton and cashews, and levying illegal taxes on trade and transport.
The UN monitors estimate that miners at Gamina dig up as much as 11.5 kg (25 lb) of gold a day. That "would account for 13.8 percent of the country's annual official (gold) production," the monitors wrote in their latest report published last month. Using a conservative gold price of $1,210 per ounce, they estimated the value of Gamina's annual output at $96.8 million.
Ivory Coast officially produces less than half as much gold as neighboring Mali and about a fifth as much as Ghana. But the government is keen to boost the mining industry.
Image: A camp for gold prospectors near the village of Gamina.