Côte d'Ivoire calls on Mali to release 49 soldiers “without delay”
According to the Malian government, the Ivorian military had the strong intention of breaking the dynamics of the refoundation and security underway in the country .
Côte d'Ivoire on Tuesday asked Mali for the “immediate” release of its 49 soldiers “unfairly” arrested on Sunday at Bamako airport and accused of being “mercenaries”, denying any intention to destabilize its neighbour.
No Ivorian soldier in this contingent was in possession of weapons and munitions of war, indicates a press release from the Ivorian presidency published in the outcome of an extraordinary National Security Council (CNS).
Côte d'Ivoire, which has always worked within sub-regional, regional and international bodies, for peace, stability and respect for the rule of law, cannot be part of the a logic of destabilization of a third country, adds the text.
On Monday, the Malian government qualified these Ivorian soldiers as mercenaries.
According to him, they were illegally on the national territory of Mali […] in possession of weapons and munitions of war, without a mission order or authorization.
The nefarious intention of those arrested was clearly to break the dynamics of rebuilding and securing Mali, as well as the return to constitutional order, said government spokesman Abdoulaye Maïga.
< p class="e-p">But according to Abidjan, the presence of its soldiers, within the framework of logistical support operations for the United Nations mission in Mali (MINUSMA), is well known to the Malian authorities.
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has been deployed since 2013.
Ivorian soldiers have been present at Bamako airport since July 2019 and the signing of a convention with the UN, the CNS said on Tuesday.
Since that date, seven contingents have periodically taken turns on this site, without any difficulty, add the Ivorian authorities who claim to have sent a copy of the mission order to Bamako.
They also affirm that they want to continue working to maintain the climate of peace and brotherhood that has always prevailed between Côte d'Ivoire and Mali.
On Tuesday, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq explained that the soldiers arrested were not formally part of MINUSMA, but that they were National Support Elements (NSE), i.e. National Support Elements (NSE). that is, troops deployed by troop-contributing countries in support of their contingents.
This is common practice in peacekeeping missions, a he added.
Some of the Ivorian soldiers selected came to Mali according to an agreement to work on the logistics base of the company Sahelian Aviation Services (SAS ).
The Malian government claims that these soldiers have put forward four different versions to justify their presence on Malian territory: the confidential mission, the rotation within the framework of MINUSMA, the securing of the SAS logistics base and the protection of the German contingent.
Colonel Assimi Goita rules Mali following a military coup in August 2020.
Colonel Assimi Goita, head of Mali's military junta, said on Tuesday in a tweet having had a phone conversation with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
We discussed UN support for the transition process in Mali and I reiterated the need for partners to respect Mali's sovereignty, he wrote. The interview was confirmed by the UN.
Information about the arrest of Ivorian soldiers began to be broadcast on the networks on Sunday before going viral, with some accusing these soldiers of having come to commit a putsch.
Mali, a landlocked country in the heart of the Sahel, has been the scene of two military coups, in August 2020 and May 2021. It recently adopted a transition timetable to allow civilians to return to power in March. 2024.
Following the adoption of this calendar, the member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS ), of which Côte d'Ivoire is a member, had lifted the economic and financial sanctions that had been hitting Mali since January.
The political crisis goes hand in hand with a serious security crisis ongoing since the outbreak in 2012 of separatist insurgencies and bloody jihadist actions in the North.
The ruling junta in Bamako has diverted from France and its partners and turned to Russia to try to stem the spread of jihadism which has reached the center of the country as well as Burkina Faso and neighboring Niger.
With its approximately 13,000 soldiers, MINUSMA – created in 2013 to support the Malian political process – was extended for a year on June 29 .