According to the public prosecutor in Mali, a court in Mali has sentenced 46 Ivorian military personnel to 20 years in prison for their imprisonment in Mali, which created a diplomatic row between Mali and Ivory Coast. The first group of people that were arrested in July included three female soldiers. These ladies were released at the beginning of September, but they were given death sentences in their absence.
After beginning on Thursday in Ivory Coast’s capital city of Bamako, the trial of 46 Ivorian soldiers was finished early on Friday. The legal proceedings took place in the days leading up to a January 1 deadline that had been set by the leaders of West Africa for Mali to free the soldiers or face the possibility of penalties.
The Ivorians were found guilty of “attacking and conspiring against the government” as well as attempting to damage state security, according to a statement released by the public prosecutor, Ladji Sara. A reporter for AFP saw that the court sessions were held in private and that security was tighter than usual.
After arriving at the airport in Bamako on July 10, 49 soldiers from the Ivory Coast were held upon arrival. Later on, three of the “miracle women” were set free. The remaining individuals, whom the junta of Mali referred to as “mercenaries,” were arrested the next month on suspicion of plotting to disrupt national security.
According to statements made by both Ivory Coast and the United Nations, the troops were airlifted into Mali in order to provide routine backup protection for the German force serving with the UN peacekeeping mission there. The dispute reached a head in September, when diplomatic sources in the region stated that Mali wanted Ivory Coast to recognize its responsibility and express sorrow for deploying the soldiers.
They went on to say that Bamako wanted Ivory Coast to hand over people who had been on its territory since 2013, but were wanted in Mali. The individuals in question are wanted in Mali. According to the sources, Ivory Coast rejected both demands and indicated that it was prepared for protracted negotiations to liberate the soldiers.
The Ivorian defense ministry stated that the conflict was “on the path to being addressed” after a delegation from Ivory Coast traveled to Mali the previous week for negotiations regarding the crisis. An agreement that was negotiated between Mali and Ivory Coast last week leaves the door open for the potential that Mali’s junta leader, Assimi Goita, who is scheduled to give a speech to the nation on Saturday, may grant a presidential pardon.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) established the first of the year as the deadline for the release of the soldiers on December 4. If Mali didn’t meet the deadline, the group threatened to take more actions against it.