The Ivorian government has freed three female troops who were among the 49 soldiers imprisoned in Mali. Around seven weeks after their arrest caused a diplomatic crisis between the military government of Mali and the government of Ivory Coast, the women went home late on Saturday.
The group was claimed to have flown into the country without permission and was regarded as mercenaries by Mali. On July 10, they were held at the airport in the capital city of Mali, Bamako. According to Ivory Coast, the troops were unlawfully arrested after being dispatched to Mali to offer backup for the United Nations peacekeeping force known as MINUSMA. The Ivorian government has repeatedly asked for their release. They claim that the Malian authorities were aware of their position inside the expedition.
On Saturday, the foreign minister of Togo, Robert Dusse, whose nation has been mediating discussions, informed reporters that the three women were “released as a humanitarian gesture” by the head of Mali, Colonel Assimi Goita. Togo is one of the countries that have been mediating talks. Dusse stated, “I would like to report that the President of the Transition, President Assimi Goita of Mali, has decided to proceed with the release of some detainees,” and he went on to say that he would like to make the announcement. “Talks are going on to make sure that the other soldiers who are being held in jail can get out of there as soon as possible,” he said.
Together with Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop and Ivory Coast’s Cabinet Director Fidele Sarassoro, Dusse was delivering his remarks in the capital of Togo, Lome. During the news conference, Sarassoro made the statement that Ivory Coast “deplores the fact that faults and misunderstandings were at the origin of this most regrettable tragedy.” The official said that his country, “eager to keep good relations with Mali as a neighbor, commits to respecting both the UN procedures and the new Malian rules and provisions about the deployment of military forces in Mali.” The official also said that the country would respect the UN procedures.
On Saturday, the public prosecutor of Mali, Samba Sissoko, released a statement in which he stated that the magistrate in charge of the case had granted a request for the release of the three soldiers and the dropping of charges against them. Sita Bamba, one of the soldiers who was eventually freed, made a plea for the liberation of her comrades in arms. After she got back to her house, she told her family and friends, “We are sad because our friends are still there and we hope to be able to retrieve them very soon.”
The detention of the Ivorian soldiers was the most recent indication that tensions are rising between the leader of Mali and the international community. After seizing power in a coup two years ago and then failing to meet a deadline set by the international community for organizing new democratic elections, Goita has been met with rising international isolation.
Olivier Salgado, the spokesman for MINUSMA, said that he agreed with Ivory Coast one day after the troops were detained. But the peacekeeping force later said that there had been “dysfunctions” in how the Ivorian troops were used.
Salgado was kicked out of Mali by the country’s military after publishing what they deemed to be “inappropriate material” on the scandal. It also stopped the United Nations from sending peacekeeping troops to different places on a regular basis, but this has since been fixed.
MINUSMA is one of the forces that are in the Sahel state to help it fight rebels linked to al-Qaeda and the ISIL (ISIS) group. These rebels began their operations in 2012 and have spread their influence across northern and central Mali. MINUSMA is one of the forces that are in the Sahel state to help it fight these rebels.
The government of Mali announced in June that it would not grant permission to MINUSMA to investigate human rights breaches in Mali, including the killing of more than 300 civilians earlier this year. Several organizations that advocate for human rights have pointed the finger of blame at the Malian army for carrying out the atrocities.