Troopers’ return indicators the obvious decision of a bitter diplomatic standoff between Mali and the Ivory Coast.
Forty-six Ivorian troopers accused by Mali of being mercenaries have returned dwelling after six months in captivity.
The troops arrived at Ivory Coast’s Abidjan airport late on Saturday, a day after receiving a pardon from Mali’s military ruler.
Their arrest within the Malian capital of Bamako in July of final yr had triggered a bitter diplomatic combat between the neighbouring international locations.
Mali accused them of being mercenaries, whereas Ivory Coast stated they had been flown in to supply routine backup safety for the German contingent of a United Nations peacekeeping mission.
Rising from their aircraft dwelling on Saturday, every soldier held a small Ivorian flag and smiled as they shook arms with Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara, who was ready to greet them on the airport.
“Now that this disaster is behind us, we are able to resume regular relations with the brother nation of Mali,” Ouattara stated as soon as they had been all on Ivorian soil.
A spokesperson for the troopers thanked Ouattara, and “the Ivorian folks for his or her assist and energetic solidarity”.
“We’re comfortable and relieved to return to the motherland,” he stated.
Their launch comes days after a courtroom in Bamako sentenced them to 20 years in prison on expenses of conspiring in opposition to the Malian authorities and in search of to undermine state safety. Three ladies, who had been among the many authentic 49 arrested on the airport and launched earlier, acquired loss of life sentences in absentia.
The sentences got here forward of a January 1 deadline set by leaders from the Financial Group of West African States (ECOWAS) for Mali to launch the troopers or face sanctions.
However on Friday, Mali’s navy chief Assimi Goita pardoned all 49.
The Malian authorities cited a memorandum of understanding that the 2 international locations had signed “on the promotion of peace and the strengthening of relations of friendship, brotherhood and good neighbourliness between the Republic of Mali and the Republic of Ivory Coast”.
It additionally thanked Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe, who had mediated within the dispute.
Relations between Mali and its West African neighbours have been strained since Goita led a coup in opposition to elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August 2020. The nation’s new rulers initially promised elections by February of final yr however then introduced a four-year delay, weeks forward of the vote.
The transfer prompted stiff ECOWAS sanctions on Mali that crippled the nation’s economic system.
The punitive measures were lifted in July when Bamako proposed a 24-month transition to democracy and promised a brand new electoral legislation.
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