The Ivory Coast considers that its 46 soldiers detained in mali for two months are “hostages”after statements by the ruling junta in Bamako conditioning their release on the extradition of Malian political figures living in Abidjan. “It is a hostage-taking which will not remain without consequence. Our position is clear: this market is unacceptable”told AFP on Sunday, September 11, a source close to the Ivorian presidency. “We always favor the diplomatic solution. We must avoid the politics of the worst”however added this source, who hopes that the Malian junta “return to its position”.
An extraordinary summit of the Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is to be held next week in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, and should discuss the subject, according to the same source. . “If by then nothing is settled through diplomatic channels, ECOWAS will be obliged to take sanctions”she predicted.
On July 10, 49 Ivorian soldiers were arrested in Mali, described as “mercenaries”, then charged in mid-August with “attempting to undermine the external security of the State” and formally imprisoned. Abidjan assures that these soldiers were on a mission for the UN as part of logistical support operations for the United Nations mission in Mali, Minusma, and demands their release.
Last weekend, three female soldiers out of 49 were released, “a humanitarian gesture” of Mali then qualified as ” good sign “ by Abidjan. But on Friday, the leader of the ruling junta in Bamako, Colonel Assimi Goïta, spoke of the need “counterpart”confirming reports that the extradition of Malian personalities was part of the discussion on the fate of Ivorian soldiers.
Mediation of the Togolese President
At “when Côte d’Ivoire asks for the release of its soldiers, [elle] continues to serve as political asylum for certain Malian personalities who are the subject of international arrest warrants issued by the courts”said Colonel Goïta. “These same personalities benefit from the protection of Côte d’Ivoire to destabilize Mali”, he insisted. He refers in particular to Karim Keïta, the son of former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, overthrown by the colonels in 2020, and to Tiéman Hubert Coulibaly, Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs under Mr. Keïta.
Several mediations are underway to obtain the release of the 46 soldiers still prisoners, including that of the Togolese President, Faure Gnassingbé, and Malian religious leaders.
In this case, the UN recognized “malfunctions”, in a note addressed to the Malian government, and admitted that “some measures were not followed”. Côte d’Ivoire, for its part, is committed to “respect the procedures of the United Nations as well as the new Malian rules and provisions enacted relating to the deployment of military forces in Mali”.
Relations between Mali and its Ivorian neighbor have deteriorated since colonels took over by force, in August 2020, the head of this country, which has been facing jihadist attacks since 2012 and plunged into a deep security and political crisis. Bamako accuses Abidjan in particular of having encouraged its West African partners to toughen the sanctions against the Malian soldiers. The sanctions were finally lifted in early July.
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