Mali: Ivory Coast Seeks Immediate Release of 49 Soldiers

Ivory Coast Asks Mali to Immediately Release 49 Arrested Soldiers (News Central TV)

In a move that could exacerbate tensions between Mali’s military authorities and other West African countries amid efforts to put an end to insurgency and restore democracy, Ivory Coast on Tuesday demanded the release of 49 of its soldiers who had been detained in Mali.

The Ivorian soldiers were taken into custody on Sunday at Bamako, Mali’s capital and primary international airport.

The military administration of Mali claimed the soldiers entered without authorisation, several of their passports showed non-military occupations, and they provided conflicting accounts of their role.

Assimi Goita, Mali Junta Leader

The junta added that Ivorian officials were not notified of the soldiers’ coming and that they would be treated as mercenaries and charged as such.

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Ivory Coast, however, said on Tuesday that the soldiers were sent as part of a security and logistics support agreement with the UN peacekeeping force in Mali that was signed in July 2019. Ivory Coast then demanded their immediate release.

According to the convention, they were the seventh rotation to be dispatched to Mali, and the junta and airport authorities had both received mission orders prior to their arrival, according to a statement from the national security council of Ivory Coast.

This information was verified on Twitter by Olivier Salgado, the spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping operation in Mali.

Ivory Coast said that none of the soldiers had weapons or war munitions with them when they disembarked, but a second plane did have weapons for self-defense that had been approved by the UN.

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The U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the interim president Colonel Assimi Goita spoke over the phone, and Goita reaffirmed the value of allies respecting Mali’s sovereignty on Twitter.

The nation is fighting to quell an Islamist insurgency that began in 2012 following a rebellion and a coup and has now extended to neighboring nations, killing thousands of people and uprooting millions in the Sahel area and coastal regions of West Africa.

Due to the military junta’s failure to hold the promised elections and delay in restoring constitutional authority, Mali has been at conflict with its regional and international neighbors since August 2020.

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