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Mali Gives UN Spokesperson 72 Hours to Leave Country

FILE: A general view of the city of Bamako, Mali, Aug. 9, 2018.
FILE: A general view of the city of Bamako, Mali, Aug. 9, 2018.

Mali's military government has given Olivier Salgado, the spokesperson for the U.N. mission to Mali, 72 hours to leave the country. The order comes after he tweeted that the Malian government was informed of the arrival of 49 Ivorian soldiers as support for a U.N. contingent. The soldiers were arrested at Bamako's airport on July 10.

Mali’s foreign affairs ministry posted the statement on its social media accounts Wednesday. The statement said that Salgado is being expelled due to “inacceptable publications” on Twitter, where he claimed Malian authorities were “previously informed of the arrival of 49 Ivorian soldiers” to Mali on July 10.

The Malian government has maintained that it was not informed of the arrival of the soldiers and claimed in a July 11 statement that the soldiers were present in Mali to "break the dynamics of the refoundation and security of Mali."

The soldiers arrived for what Salgado said in a tweet was “logistical support on behalf of one of our contingents,” though they were not present as official contingent forces for Mali’s U.N. mission, MINUSMA.

The soldiers were arrested on their arrival at Bamako’s airport with the government claiming they are “mercenaries.” Following the arrest, Mali suspended all rotations of U.N. forces in Mali until further notice. Ivory Coast has called for the soldiers' release.

MINUSMA has supported the Malian army in maintaining security in much of the country since its creation in 2013.

Tensions between the U.N. and Mali’s military government have been rising in recent months, with the U.N. being denied access to the town of Moura in April, where they wished to carry out a human rights investigation of an alleged massacre.

When MINUSMA’s mandate in Mali was renewed during a Security Council meeting on June 29, Mali’s representative to the U.N. stated that the government would not be permitting the U.N. to carry out any human rights investigations.