Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe, mediator in the Mali-Ivory Coast row over 46 Ivorian soldiers detained in Mali, arrived in Bamako Wednesday for a “friendly working visit,” the Malian presidency said.
Last week, a Malian court sentenced the troops, accused of being “mercenaries”, to 20 years in prison, despite a threat of sanctions from West African leaders.
The statement said that Gnassingbe was received by Mali’s military leader Assimi Goita before heading to the Koulouba Palace presidency.
Malian authorities detained 49 Ivorian soldiers after they arrived Bamako airport on July 10, 2022 to provide backup security for a UN peacekeeping mission.
Three women soldiers were freed, but later sentenced to death in absentia. The West African bloc ECOWAS had given Mali a deadline of January 1 to free the troops or face sanctions. However, it has remained quiet since the December 30 sentencing.
The troops were found guilty of an “attack and conspiracy against the government” and seeking to undermine state security, public prosecutor Ladji Sara said in a statement last month.
In his New Year’s address, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara promised that the imprisoned soldiers “will soon return to Ivorian soil”.
“We must trust the head of state,” Ivorian government spokesman Amadou Coulibaly said after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. He declined further comment on the convictions of the Ivorian soldiers.
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