The government of Ivory Coast has reiterated its call for the “immediate release” of over 46 soldiers of its troop who are being detained in Bamako, the Malian capital, accusing the military junta of Colonel Assimi Goita of “blackmail”.
The government’s National Security Council described the condition to release the troops on the extradition of Malians living in Ivory Coast as “unacceptable blackmail”, urging leaders of ECOWAS for a meeting to discuss the crisis as soon as possible.
Why are the Ivorian soldiers being detained?
About 49 Ivorian soldiers were arrested on July 10 by the Malian authorities when they arrived at Bamako airport, on the ground that they had no orders or supporting documents, labeling them as “mercenaries”. The Ivorian government however denied the allegations, saying that the troops were on a routine rotation for personnel who provided backup services for the United Nation’s peacekeeping mission in Mali.
The soldiers were in August, charged with “attempted harm to external state security” and formally kept in custody.
What is the Malian government saying now?
Three women soldiers of the troops have been released, a move welcomed by Ivory Coast and described as a sign of peace. But Mali’s military junta now says it wants compensation for the release of the remaining soldiers, calling for the extradition of Karim Keita, son of the former president Boubacar Keita who was overthrown in 2020, and Tieman Hubert Coulibaly, defense and foreign affairs minister under Keita.
Mali has also accused Ivory Coast of insisting on ECOWAS taking a tough line of action aimed at pressing the military government to relinquish power and fixing a date for the election to a civilian government.