The Togolese president has initiated a mediation for a quick release of forty-six (46) Ivorian soldiers imprisoned in Mali.Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé will take advantage of his visit to discuss with his Malian counterpart Colonel Assimi Goita, the ways and means to achieve the rapid release of the forty-six (46) soldiers detained in Bamako since July. Some hope for a successful outcome to these talks. The Togolese president is accompanied by a strong delegation including the head of Togolese diplomacy, Professor Robert Dossey.
In his speech on New Year’s Eve, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara praised the efforts of the Togolese President who allowed the release last September “for humanitarian reasons” of three women who were part of the contingent of forty-nine (49) Ivorian soldiers arrested in Bamako. He also promised that “the 46 others will soon return to Ivorian soil.”
On Friday 30 December, the Bamako Court of Appeal sentenced the forty-six defendants appearing before the Special Court of Assizes to twenty years of criminal imprisonment and the payment of a fine of two million FCFA.
As for the three women released last September for humanitarian reasons, they were sentenced in absentia to death and to the payment of a fine of ten million CFA francs.
The charges against these defendants include “attacking and plotting against the Government, undermining the external security of the State, possession, carrying and transporting arms and munitions of war or defence intentionally in relation to an individual or collective enterprise aimed at disturbing public order through intimidation or terror.”
This is a far cry from the description of “mercenarism” that was initially attached to them by the Malian authorities. It is now known that they are all soldiers of the Ivorian army. At present, all eyes are on the efforts of the Togolese president who has obtained the approval of his peers of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to mediate in the release of the Ivorian soldiers.
He will also rely on a memorandum of understanding signed on Thursday 22 December between the Malian and Ivorian authorities to serve as a basis for the release of Ivorian soldiers. The lines will certainly move before the end of the twenty-four-hour visit to Mali of the Togolese head of state.
A sword of Damocles is also hanging over the heads of the Malian authorities, to whom ECOWAS, at its summit on 4 December, threatened sanctions if the Ivorian soldiers were not released before the beginning of January 2023.