Ivory Coast calls for ECOWAS emergency summit over its troops held in Mali
Ivory Coast on Wednesday (14 September) slammed Mali for “blackmailing” over 46 Ivorian troops who have been detained by Bamako and urged leaders of the regional bloc ECOWAS to discuss the crisis “as soon as possible”.
Mali’s ruling junta last week tied the troops’ release to the extradition of Malians living in Ivory Coast — a condition that amounts to “unacceptable blackmail,” the Ivory government’s National Security Council said in a statement. It reiterated a call for the soldiers’ “immediate release” and called for West African leaders to help solve the diplomatic crisis that is “liable to harm peace and security in the sub-region.“ The two countries have been locked in a diplomatic tug-of-war since 10 July, when the Malian authorities arrested 49 troops who had arrived at Bamako airport. The junta-led government claimed the troops had had no orders or supporting documents, accused them of possessing weapons and ammunition of war “without a mission order” — therefore, it described them as “mercenaries” and charged them with “attempted harm to external state security.”
Ivory Coast says the troops were simply on a routine rotation for personnel who provide back-up services for the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission — UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). The recent demand by Mali’s military junta for “compensation for Mali“ — referring to Malians living in political asylum in Ivory Coast who were being sought by Bamako through international arrest warrants — was denounced by Ivory Coast as a „blackmail“ that “confirms once more the fact that our soldiers are in no way mercenaries but hostages.“ Malians in Ivory Coast include son of former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, overthrown by the junta in 2020 and defense and foreign affairs minister under Keita.