► What did Mali blame the 46 Ivorian soldiers for?
On July 10, 2022, a group of Ivorian soldiers, seconded to the UN force in Mali, were picked up cold at Bamako airport: when they got off the plane, these blue helmets were immediately arrested. Malian power, dominated by soldiers close to Colonel Assimi Goïta since the coup d’état in the summer of 2020, accuses them of being “mercenaries” deployed under the cover of the UN to destabilize the regime in place.
On December 30, 2022, after months of detention, they were sentenced to twenty years’ imprisonment by a court in Bamako, found guilty in particular of “attack and conspiracy against the government” and “undermining the external security of the country”. ‘State “. Abidjan has always categorically denied these accusations. For its part, the UN, while acknowledging that it had poorly prepared the arrival of these Ivorian peacekeepers in Mali, has continued to call for their release.
► What were Bamako’s motivations?
Bamako has not digested that Côte d’Ivoire is encouraging its West African partners to toughen the sanctions against the putschist soldiers, even though these measures were lifted at the beginning of July 2022. The Malian junta also suspects the Ivorian president , Alassane Ouattara, a close friend of Paris, to be guided by an ex-French colonial power hated in Bamako.
Beyond these stubborn suspicions, the arrest of the 46 Ivorian soldiers also allowed the Malian regime to send a warning shot to the foreign forces present on its soil, while flattering the skin-deep nationalism of a population grappled with a serious security crisis for more than a decade.
► What impact can this case have?
“Now that this crisis is behind us, we will be able to resume normal relations with the brother country of Mali, which needs us and which we also need,” Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara said on Saturday. descent of his soldiers from the plane at Abidjan airport.
In reality, it risks leaving deep traces between the two neighbors. Côte d’Ivoire thus announced, last November, the withdrawal of its contingent deployed within the UN mission in Mali by August 2023. A withdrawal which is added to the departure of French soldiers from the operation Barkhane, as well as that of several European contingents, in disagreement with the orientations taken by the power of Bamako.
Starting with his decision to use the services of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner. The gap is widening between Abidjan and Bamako as jihadist groups, far from retreating, are advancing in Burkina Faso, and pose a growing threat to the security of countries further south, such as Côte d’Ivoire.