June 6, 2023

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Ivory Coast: Who are the 49 Ivory Coast players detained in Bamako?

The 49 soldiers from Cote d’Ivoire who were arrested at Bamako airport in Mali on Sunday July 10 are currently being held by the Malian authorities. According to them, they were arrested while disembarking from the plane to undergo “testing”.

Bamako later explained that they were suspected of being “mercenaries” who entered the country illegally. According to the Malian government, the Ivorian soldiers did not have authorization to travel to Mali and could not justify a mission order.

Mali assures them that they have no authorization

As soon as their arrests were announced, Côte d’Ivoire demanded the “immediate” release of its soldiers. According to the Ivorian president, ““No Ivorian soldier of this group possesses weapons and ammunition of war”. “Côte d’Ivoire, which has always worked within sub-regional, regional and international organizations for peace, stability and respect for the rule of law, cannot be part of the logic of third country destabilization.“, defends the Ivorian government.

It was established that forty-nine Ivorian soldiers were illegally in Mali’s national territory (…) with weapons and military equipment, without mission orders or authorization.In a press release dated July 11, 2022, the Spokesperson for the Government of Mali, Col. Abdoulaye Maika

For several days, Malian authorities confirmed their presence.A flagrant violation“National Penal Code”Criminalizing attacks on the external defense of the state, including attacks on territorial integrityBamako says Mali’s foreign ministry was not informed through official channels of the Ivorian troops’ arrival.

Forces providing logistical support to MINUSMA

According to Abidjan, these Ivorian soldiers “National support” (NSE). They are not part of the Blue Helmets and are intervening in support of the UN mission in Mali, MINUSMA. According to Abidjan, the presence of its soldiers within the framework of logistical support operations for the United Nations mission in Mali (MINUSMA) “B.Malian officials are well aware“.

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According to information provided by the Ivorian government, a memorandum signed with the UN in 2019 provides for the deployment of a military team in Mali. These players are contracted to Sahel Airlines (SAS), a private company based at Bamako Airport. According to Abidjan, the site also hosts players of foreign nationalities.

Côte d’Ivoire, Minusma, to support the Mopti company and its two teams in Timbuktu battalion, after UN approval, should establish a NSE (National) following a memorandum of understanding with SAS (Sahelian Aviation Services). support element) in the capital, Bamako, as an advanced logistics base”, Colonel Armand Mahi Kusova, External Action Adviser to the Chief of Staff of the Forces of Côte d’Ivoire explained.

The tasks of these soldiers are clear: support the troops, protect military bases, help transport military equipment to the Timbuktu and Mopti bases in Mali. “The Memorandum of Understanding signed with the UN gives us the authority to keep arms to defend ourselves and the installations that house us. So, the factions are engaged with their weapons and I remind you that this is still terrorism in Mali. Colonel Armand Mahi also mentioned Kusova. The version provided by the Ivorian Government is the UN. According to MINUSMA spokesman Olivier Salgado, these soldiers are actually part of the UN mission in Mali. It is part of the national support that works directly with the delegation.

Mali’s military junta has defied the international community

Since the military junta came to power, Malian authorities have maintained complicated relations with the international community. In January, the junta asked Denmark to withdraw newly arrived but deployed troops.without his consent“.Copenhagen Condemned”A bad political game“.

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The ruling regime in Bamako has also turned away from France and its partners and toward Russia to stem the spread of jihadism in the country’s heartland and neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger. The violence resulted in thousands of civilian and military deaths and hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

Colonel Assimi Koida (centre), head of Mali's military junta.  Bamako, August 22, 2020.

At the end of June, when Minusma’s mandate was renewed in the country, the military junta objected to some of the provisions in force. Mobility and free movement of MINUSMA units have been particularly challenged. German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht responded to the arrest, with a German team of MINUSMA also stationed at Bamako airport. Condemning these arrests, he describes “A very complex signalThe minister also directed that the arrested soldiers be released immediately.

Two weeks after the lifting of ECOWAS sanctions on Mali

In early July, leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) member states lifted sanctions imposed against the brutal military regime since January. This includes the trade and financial embargo imposed in January.

The interim government in Mali announced Monday evening that it was “satisfied” after lifting sanctions on Sunday.Illegal and inhumane“, was decided in January by West African countries after two coups in this country. Due to economic sanctions, institutions such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank have stopped money transfers to Mali, especially in the West African financial market.

The lifting of sanctions coincides with an election calendar issued by the military junta to member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), of which Cote d’Ivoire is a member. Some restrictive measures, such as individual sanctions and the suspension of Mali from the ECOWAS system, will however be maintained until constitutional order is restored in the country.

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Mali, a landlocked country in the heart of the Sahel, was the scene of two military coups in August 2020 and May 2021. It recently adopted a transition timetable that would allow civilians to return to power in March 2024.