Mali Agrees to Release 46 Ivorian Soldiers After Five Months in Detention

In the presence of the Togolese mediator and Cote d’Ivoire delegation, the Malian government agreed on Thursday in Bamako to release the 46 Ivoirian soldiers who have been detained for the past five months in the Malian capital.

The Ivorian ministerial delegation arrived on Thursday, along with the Togolese facilitator, for talks with the Malian government. The trip was organised after Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara recently sent a letter to Colonel Assimi Goïta in order to lower the heightened tensions over this issue.

At the end of the meeting, the presidency of Mali affirmed on social networks that this agreement should “promote peace” between the two countries in order to “overcome this event”.

Possible judicial hurdle

Although the text has been agreed to, it has not been signed yet. An additional complication stems from the detainees’ dossier that was sent to the General Prosecutor’s office on 25 November.

Either the Malian authorities drop the case, or continue in the prosecution of the soldiers, who were accused of undermining the Malian state, according to Serge Daniel, RFI correspondent.

Head of the Ivorian delegation and Minister of State for Defense Téné Birahima Ouattara said the detention of the soldiers was “a question in the process of being resolved”.

“We can say that we have just had a fruitful trip here on Malian soil,” he added.

Positive meeting from all sides

The Ivorian delegation was received by Malian transitional President Colonel Assimi Goïta, who also authorised the group to meet with the soldiers.

A source close to the meeting told the RFI correspondent that the military detainees are doing well and were quite happy the meeting was taking place, adding that they would like to spend the end of year celebrations at home with their family.

“The working atmosphere was fraternal,” said a member of the Ivorian delegation who did not want to be identified.

In July, a group of 49 soldiers had flown to Bamako to reportedly reinforce MINUSMA, the United Nations Peacekeeping mission in Mali. They were charged by the Malian transitional government of alleged conspiracy and harm to state security.

Three female soldiers were released on 3 September as a humanitarian gesture, which was seen as a possibility that the crisis was ending. However, the 46 Ivorians have remained in custody in Mali’s capital.

The document both sides have agreed to sign will not only release the military men, but will be a statement of strengthening relations between Cote d’Ivoire and Mali.

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