“I would like to announce to you that the president of the transition […] of Mali, Assimi Goita, accepted […] to proceed with the release of certain prisoners,” said Togolese Foreign Minister Robert Dussey during a press conference in Lomé on Saturday September 3. The Togolese President, Faure Gnassingbé, “is delighted that President Assimi Goïta has agreed to release, as a humanitarian gesture, three prisoners out of the 49”, he added, specifying that they were “soldiers feminine”.
Mali: what we know about the imbroglio around the arrested Ivorian soldiers
He spoke alongside his Malian counterpart, Abdoulaye Diop, and the minister director of cabinet at the Ivorian presidency, Fidèle Sarassoro. Freed women were also present, in uniform.
Abandon des charges
These three releases had been announced earlier in the day by a Diplomat Malian on condition of anonymity. The Malian prosecutor, Samba Sissoko, said in a statement that the magistrate in charge of the case had approved the release of the three soldiers and the dropping of the charges against them. “Discussions are underway so that, very quickly, the other soldiers in detention can regain their total freedom,” continued Robert Dussey.
The 49 soldiers had been charged in mid-August by the Malian courts, in particular for “attempting to undermine the external security of the State”, and formally imprisoned. Several mediations, including that of the Togolese president and Malian religious leaders, are underway to secure their release.
From Lomé to Bamako, in the secret of negotiations for the release of Ivorian soldiers
On July 10, 49 Ivorian soldiers in military uniform, but unarmed, landed in Bamako from a plane belonging to the national company Air Côte d’Ivoire, another aircraft carrying their weapons. They were immediately arrested and questioned about the reasons for their presence in Mali, having “neither mission order nor authorization” to be there, according to the Malian authorities.
The next day, they were accused of being “mercenaries” who came to Mali with the “malignant design” of “breaking the dynamics of the refoundation and securing of Mali, as well as the return to constitutional order”. But Abidjan assures that these soldiers were on a mission for the UN, as part of logistical support operations for the United Nations Mission in Mali (Minusma) and demands their release.
“Bridging existing differences”
During the press conference on September 3, the minister director of cabinet at the Ivorian presidency Fidèle Sarassoro returned to these arrests. “The Republic of Côte d’Ivoire deplores that shortcomings and misunderstandings were at the origin of this highly regrettable event”, he underlined.
“The Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, anxious to maintain good neighborly relations with Mali, undertakes to respect the procedures of the United Nations as well as the new Malian rules and provisions enacted, relating to the deployment of military forces in Mali. “, he added.
Côte d’Ivoire undertakes to continue discussions on all subjects of common interest
Finally, “in order to iron out existing differences and thus contribute to the preservation of peace and stability in the sub-region, the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire undertakes to pursue, in a transparent and constructive manner with the Mali, exchanges and discussions on all subjects of common interest”, according to him.
In this case, the UN had recognized “dysfunctions” in a note addressed to the Malian government and admitted that “certain measures were not followed”.
Côte d’Ivoire-Mali: the difficult mediation of the UN for the release of Ivorian soldiers
“The Minusma notes that the Ivorian elements were deployed in Sénou (Bamako) to ensure security at the base of the German NSE in this same locality, instead of Timbuktu (north), where the Ivorian contingent of the Minusma is based”, is it particularly explained.
Until the release of the female soldiers, this affair illustrated the tensions between Mali and Côte d’Ivoire, accused by Bamako of having incited its West African partners to toughen the sanctions against the Malian soldiers who carried out two State since 2020, sanctions finally lifted beginning July.