Côte d’Ivoire’s General Staff of the Armed Forces on Wednesday, July 13, provided information on the presence of its 49 soldiers who were arrested at Bamako Airport on Sunday. The Ivorian army insists that the arrested contingent is indeed on an official mission in Mali as part of the activities of the UN peacekeeping mission, Minusma. But the UN is struggling to clarify whether these deployments, which began in 2019, have such a clear mission as Abidjan claims.
Initially, the UN teams, both in New York and in Bamako, confirmed the Ivorian version. However, after cross-examination, new information revealed that the Ivorian soldiers were not considered as national support elements (NSE) by the UN, and for the organization it was above all a bilateral dealreport our correspondent at the UN headquarters in New York, Carrie Nootenand our journalist at Africa service, David Bache.
This was confirmed by Fahran Faq, UN Spokesman: “Ivorian troops do not belong to the forces of Minusma. A request from Côte d’Ivoire to deploy national support elements was approved in 2019. However, no troops have been deployed under this convention since. We strongly encourage both countries to work together to resolve the situation and enable the release of the imprisoned troops. “
Apparently, Abidjan signed an agreement in 2019 with the UN to be able to distribute its logistical support. However, if troops have been sent to Bamako in the last three years, it has not been organized under this convention: in the end, they were therefore not legally, legally and administratively considered as NSEs.
Is this a simple administrative mess, a formalization error? Is the fault of the Ivorian army or the UN team? Questions remain unanswered
Abdijan insists that the 49 soldiers are part of the NSE with a mandate from the UN. Despite this information, the Ivorian General Staff reiterates that the contingent of 49 soldiers is indeed part of the National Support Elements (NSE) and that it was therefore legitimate, as was originally confirmed by Minusma’s spokesman the day after the arrest, reports our correspondent in Abidjan, Sidy Yansane.
The high military hierarchy recalls that seven of these NSEs have replaced each other in the past without the slightest problem. That is why Colonel Guézoa Mahi Armand, external operational adviser to the Chief of the Armed Forces General Staff, rejects the accusation of “mercenary” launched by the Malian authorities:
“The MOU signed with the UN allows us to keep weapons, to protect ourselves and the facilities that protect us, and I still remind you that these are terrorists in Mali. The transport of this material took place in accordance with the regulations, that is. say one plan for the staff and another for armor and ammunition.They therefore did not land with weapons in hand, and dressed in uniforms they did not hide their identity.All this controversy should therefore not take place.
The senior officer also explains that his elements could not be registered in Minusma’s files, as they were arrested as soon as they landed at Bamako Airport, which prevented them from carrying out the usual administrative formalities.
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The pros and cons of the Malian political class demand concessions If the general misunderstanding continues, due to the radically different versions, and if Abidjan demands the release “without delay” of his soldiers, Bamako has announced that they want to bring them to justice. In the face of the delicate appeal of the situation, Malian politicians are generally being appealed for concessions and diplomacy.
A member of an organization that is in favor of the Malian transitional authorities believes that the Ivorians are wrong and that “it is time for some heads of state to stop destabilizing the sub-region in favor of the Western powers,” he said. to Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara and France respectively.
Another pro-junta politician considers the “confusion” surrounding the arrival of the 49 Ivorian soldiers to be a “serious mistake” by Abidjan, but pleads for them not to be brought to justice. “Only the diplomatic route” can, according to him, make it possible to get out of a “very risky” situation, which can even lead “to a military confrontation”.
A former minister who opposes the current transitional authorities shares the fear of weapons. In addition to fearing that Bamako will incite the conflict to flatter national pride, even if it means “exploding the country”.
Silence on the part of civil society Several other party leaders and former ministers point to Abidjan’s “shortcomings”, but do not believe at all in an attempt at destabilization. They remember that the two countries have important economic ties and that two million Malays live in Côte d’Ivoire.
To them, the aggression that Bamako shows is a “clumsiness” or even a “leak ahead”. They advocate “dialogue” and “diplomacy”, in the interests of malians, and note the silence of civil society organizations: according to them, they are usually quick to praise the authorities’ acts of brilliance. “The main thing is elsewhere, concludes a former minister, and especially inland.”