Mali: one month since the arrest of 49 Ivorian soldiers

Mali: one month since the arrest of 49 Ivorian soldiers  The negotiation remains privileged to obtain the release of 49 Ivorian soldiers detained for a month in Bamako and accused by the military in power in Mali of being "mercenaries" , which Abidjan denies, which ensures that they were on a mission for the UN.  This affair illustrates the tensions between Mali and Côte d'Ivoire , accused by Bamako of having incited its West African partners to toughen the sanctions against the Malian soldiers who have carried out two coups since 2020, sanctions finally lifted in early July .  Mediation by Togo has so far not succeeded, but discussions are continuing with a view to the fastest possible release of the prisoner soldiers. On July 10, 49 Ivorian soldiers in military uniform, but unarmed, landed in Bamako from a plane belonging to the national company Air Côte d'Ivoire, another aircraft carrying their weapons.  They are immediately arrested and questioned about the reasons for their presence in Mali, having "neither mission order nor authorization" to be there, according to the Malian authorities. The next day, they are accused of being "mercenaries" who came to Mali with the "malignant design" of "breaking the dynamics of the refoundation and securing of Mali, as well as the return to constitutional order ".   The Ivorian National Security Council (CNS), chaired by the Head of State, Alassane Ouattara , immediately demands their release "without delay" , claiming that they have been "unfairly" arrested. Their presence in the context of logistical support operations for the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is "well known to the Malian authorities" , according to the CNS.  The UN confirms, but nevertheless recognizes "dysfunctions" , as to the exact mission of these soldiers who are part of the National Support Elements (NSE), a UN procedure allowing contingents of peacekeeping missions to use of external service providers for logistical support.  MINUSMA "notes that the Ivorian elements were deployed in Sénou (Bamako) to ensure security at the base of the German NSEs in this same locality, instead of Timbuktu (north) where the Ivorian contingent of the Minusma is based" and admits that "certain measures were not followed" .   In the wake of the arrest of the Ivorian soldiers, Mali is toughening its stance against MINUSMA, which has been present on its territory since 2013 to help it fight against the jihadist groups which are destabilizing it with violence.  The rotations of the military and police contingents of the UN are suspended, its spokesman, Olivier Salgado , expelled, and the order is given to "foreign forces" to leave a base at Bamako airport.  At the same time, the Malian junta calls for mediation by Togo in order to reach "a happy ending" - the release of the Ivorian soldiers - an initiative accepted by the Ivorian government. Initial negotiations took place on July 28 in Lomé , without result.   Mali demanded that Côte d'Ivoire recognize its responsibility and express "regret" for the deployment of soldiers on its territory without a legal framework, according to diplomatic sources close to the negotiations.  Bamako also asks Abidjan to deliver Malian personalities present in Côte d'Ivoire and wanted by the justice system in Mali, according to these sources. So many conditions rejected by the Ivorian government.  But "we are continuing discussions with the two brotherly countries, resolutely turned towards a peaceful settlement of the case" , according to a Togolese source familiar with the matter.   The president of the High Islamic Council of Mali, Chérif Madani Haïdara , and the Archbishop of Bamako, Jean Zerbo , also intervened with the junta with a view to an amicable settlement, as well as the influential religious leader of Nioro (south-west of Mali), Chérif Bouyé Haïdara , according to their entourage.  Proof of Mali's apparent desire to favor a negotiated solution for the time being, the legal proceedings initiated in Bamako against the Ivorian soldiers have so far not led to any charges.  "Côte d'Ivoire favored dialogue" to obtain the release of its soldiers and "discussions are underway" , confirmed the spokesman for the Ivorian government, Amadou Coulibaly . “Everything is being done for our soldiers to join their families ,” he said, acknowledging that “it may be a long time” .   At its last meeting on Thursday, the Ivorian CNS deplored that the Malian authorities "continue to detain these soldiers, arbitrarily, despite all the explanations and evidence provided by the Ivorian authorities, to attest to the legal and regular nature of their assignment" .  He notes, however , "that after several refusals from the Malian authorities, the charge d'affaires and the military attaché of the Embassy of Côte d'Ivoire in Mali were finally able to meet the 49 soldiers" who "have good morale " .  This reassuring message was conveyed to the families of the soldiers by the Ivorian Defense Minister, Téné Birahima Ouattara , during a meeting on August 3. In a speech on Saturday, President Ouattara assured that "Côte d'Ivoire will never abandon them" .

The negotiation remains privileged to obtain the release of 49 Ivorian soldiers detained for a month in Bamako and accused by the military in power in Mali of being "mercenaries" , which Abidjan denies, which ensures that they were on a mission for the UN.

This affair illustrates the tensions between Mali and Côte d'Ivoire , accused by Bamako of having incited its West African partners to toughen the sanctions against the Malian soldiers who have carried out two coups since 2020, sanctions finally lifted in early July .

Mediation by Togo has so far not succeeded, but discussions are continuing with a view to the fastest possible release of the prisoner soldiers. On July 10, 49 Ivorian soldiers in military uniform, but unarmed, landed in Bamako from a plane belonging to the national company Air Côte d'Ivoire, another aircraft carrying their weapons.

They are immediately arrested and questioned about the reasons for their presence in Mali, having "neither mission order nor authorization" to be there, according to the Malian authorities. The next day, they are accused of being "mercenaries" who came to Mali with the "malignant design" of "breaking the dynamics of the refoundation and securing of Mali, as well as the return to constitutional order ".

The Ivorian National Security Council (CNS), chaired by the Head of State, Alassane Ouattara , immediately demands their release "without delay" , claiming that they have been "unfairly" arrested. Their presence in the context of logistical support operations for the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is "well known to the Malian authorities" , according to the CNS.

The UN confirms, but nevertheless recognizes "dysfunctions" , as to the exact mission of these soldiers who are part of the National Support Elements (NSE), a UN procedure allowing contingents of peacekeeping missions to use of external service providers for logistical support.

MINUSMA "notes that the Ivorian elements were deployed in Sénou (Bamako) to ensure security at the base of the German NSEs in this same locality, instead of Timbuktu (north) where the Ivorian contingent of the Minusma is based" and admits that "certain measures were not followed" .

In the wake of the arrest of the Ivorian soldiers, Mali is toughening its stance against MINUSMA, which has been present on its territory since 2013 to help it fight against the jihadist groups which are destabilizing it with violence.

The rotations of the military and police contingents of the UN are suspended, its spokesman, Olivier Salgado , expelled, and the order is given to "foreign forces" to leave a base at Bamako airport.

At the same time, the Malian junta calls for mediation by Togo in order to reach "a happy ending" - the release of the Ivorian soldiers - an initiative accepted by the Ivorian government. Initial negotiations took place on July 28 in Lomé , without result.

Mali demanded that Côte d'Ivoire recognize its responsibility and express "regret" for the deployment of soldiers on its territory without a legal framework, according to diplomatic sources close to the negotiations.

Bamako also asks Abidjan to deliver Malian personalities present in Côte d'Ivoire and wanted by the justice system in Mali, according to these sources. So many conditions rejected by the Ivorian government.

But "we are continuing discussions with the two brotherly countries, resolutely turned towards a peaceful settlement of the case" , according to a Togolese source familiar with the matter.

The president of the High Islamic Council of Mali, Chérif Madani Haïdara , and the Archbishop of Bamako, Jean Zerbo , also intervened with the junta with a view to an amicable settlement, as well as the influential religious leader of Nioro (south-west of Mali), Chérif Bouyé Haïdara , according to their entourage.

Proof of Mali's apparent desire to favor a negotiated solution for the time being, the legal proceedings initiated in Bamako against the Ivorian soldiers have so far not led to any charges.

"Côte d'Ivoire favored dialogue" to obtain the release of its soldiers and "discussions are underway" , confirmed the spokesman for the Ivorian government, Amadou Coulibaly . “Everything is being done for our soldiers to join their families ,” he said, acknowledging that “it may be a long time” .

At its last meeting on Thursday, the Ivorian CNS deplored that the Malian authorities "continue to detain these soldiers, arbitrarily, despite all the explanations and evidence provided by the Ivorian authorities, to attest to the legal and regular nature of their assignment" .

He notes, however , "that after several refusals from the Malian authorities, the charge d'affaires and the military attaché of the Embassy of Côte d'Ivoire in Mali were finally able to meet the 49 soldiers" who "have good morale " .

This reassuring message was conveyed to the families of the soldiers by the Ivorian Defense Minister, Téné Birahima Ouattara , during a meeting on August 3. In a speech on Saturday, President Ouattara assured that "Côte d'Ivoire will never abandon them" .
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