The fate of the Ivorian soldiers arrested almost a month ago at Bamako airport – and for a time accused of being mercenaries responsible for destabilizing Mali – remains at the heart of West African diplomatic discussions.
According to our sources, the Togolese Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe et Robert Dussey, his Minister of Foreign Affairs, are trying to open a second round of negotiations in Lomé between Ivorians and Malians.
Ivory Coast – Mali: behind the scenes of the mediation of Faure Essozimna Gnassingbé
The first session having ended in failure, the mediators are trying to clear up the situation. According to our sources, the Malians, whose delegation was led by the head of diplomacy, Abdoulaye Diop, did not appreciate the attitude of the Ivorians. They had brought to Lomé a number of documents from their Ministry of Defence, which proved, according to them, that Bamako was perfectly aware, before July 10, that soldiers would be sent to Mali.
AU and ECOWAS to the rescue
The Ivorians had found their interlocutors too aggressive and had refused to apologize. Alassane Ouattara hoped to obtain the release of the 49 soldiers before August 7, the date of the celebration of the independence of his country. Faced with the negative signals sent from Bamako at the beginning of August, he resigned himself to seeing the file drag on.
In addition to Togolese mediation, the Ivorian head of state is counting on two of his peers to find a favorable outcome to this case and keep him informed of his progress: Macky Sallon behalf of the African Union, and Umaro Sissoco Embaló, on behalf of ECOWAS. According to our information, the Senegalese and the Bissau-Guinean both raised this subject with Like Goita, the president of the Malian transition. The latter is also in regular contact with Robert Dussey.
Aminata Mohamed on behalf of the UN
Another diplomat is also following the case closely: the Portuguese Antonio Guterres. The Secretary General of the United Nations had already asked the French Jean Pierre Lacroixhis deputy in charge of peace operations, visiting Bamako on July 24, to plead with the Malian authorities for a rapid end to the crisis.
Mali: “dysfunctions” within the Minusma at the origin of the arrest of the 49 Ivorian soldiers?
According to our sources, it is now the Nigerian Aminata Mohamed, Deputy Secretary General of the UN, who is in regular contact with the Malian authorities. In Mali, the case is managed by a trio made up of Assimi Goïta,Abdoulaye MaigaMinister of Territorial Administration, and Colonel Modibo Kone, the Director General of National Security. From the first hours of the crisis, the latter had been in direct contact with Vassiriki Traorehead of Ivorian intelligence.
Detained at the Gendarmerie School in Bamako in conditions that Abidjan considers acceptable, the soldiers were visited at the beginning of August by two Ivorian diplomats based in Bamako: Kouadio Konan, First Counselor at the Embassy, and Colonel Brahma Doumbia, Defense Attaché.
They also received the support of Cardinal John Zerbo, the Archbishop of Bamako, and Seid Cherif Ousmane Madani Haidara, the president of the High Islamic Council of Mali. The two religious authorities also interceded with the Malian presidency and government in favor of the release of ces men.