Ivory Coast released a written statement demanding the immediate release of 49 soldiers arrested at Bamako’s airport Sunday, claiming they were “unjustly arrested.” Mali’s military government has called the soldiers “mercenaries.”
The Ivorian statement also denied allegations by Mali’s military government that the soldiers were armed and arrived in Mali without authorization, and said both Mali’s minister of foreign affairs and the Malian army’s chief of staff received copies of the soldiers’ mission order.
Both the U.N. mission in Mali and the Ivorian government’s statement have said that the soldiers were sent to Mali as support for a U.N. Mission contingent.
The U.N. mission in Mali, MINUSMA, recently renewed its mandate, with Mali’s U.N. representative voicing the government’s refusal to allow the U.N. to carry out human rights investigations during a June 29 Security Council meeting.
The U.N. has carried out a number of human rights investigations in Mali in recent years, including events that implicate the French army as well as Islamist militants. The U.N. sought access to the town of Moura in Mali, which was the sight of what many witnesses said was a massacre by the Malian army working with Russian mercenaries. Witnesses say the alleged massacre was carried out over five days.
The Malian government has continually denied access to the town of Moura, saying the government itself would carry out an investigation.
The regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, which includes neighbor Ivory Coast, sanctioned Mali in January over delayed elections but lifted sanctions this month after the government proposed a 2024 election plan.