The news of the release of 49 soldiers detained in Mali, formerly sentenced to 20 years in prison and death has been received with great joy among Ivorians.
Political analysts and many Ivorian citizens welcome the news of the presidential pardon.
The pardon is intended to promote peace between the neighbouring countries and aid in calming the unrest in the region.
Relations between ECOWAS and Mali had already been strained before the arrests; the junta has so far resisted West African pressure and sanctions and remained in power.
It promised to step down in February 2024 when a proper transition to civil rule is expected to be perfected.
Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara is considered one of the most intransigent West African leaders towards Mali’s coup leaders.
The junta indicted the 49 soldiers in mid-August and has released no information about their health or well-being since.
Mali’s military leader Goita had said he was open to talks “in the strict respect of the sovereignty of Mali”, according to a joint statement from the foreign ministers of Togo and Ivory Coast in July.
After the soldiers were arrested, the UN had acknowledged some procedural “dysfunctions” in a note addressed to the Malian government and admitted that “certain measures have not been followed”.
The Ivorian presidency had also acknowledged in September “shortcomings and misunderstandings” after Mali had demanded an apology.
The row however escalated in September, when diplomatic sources in the region said Mali wanted Ivory Coast to acknowledge its responsibility and express regret for deploying the soldiers.
Bamako also wanted Ivory Coast to hand over people who had been on its territory since 2013 but who are wanted in Mali, they said. Ivory Coast rejected both demands and was prepared for extended negotiations to free the men, the sources said. “This hostage-taking will not be without consequences,” the Ivorian president said at the time.
That led Maiga, who was then interim prime minister, to denounce a “synchronisation of actions” against Mali at the UN General Assembly on September 24. He attacked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for having declared that the Ivorian soldiers were not mercenaries. He also criticised ECOWAS leader Umaro Sissoco Embalo.
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