Abidjan, Jan 8 (EFE).- Forty-six Ivorian soldiers who had been held in Mali for six months accused of being mercenaries, have returned home after being pardoned, the Ivory Coast government reported on Sunday.
The soldiers arrived at the Abidjan airport, the Ivory Coast’s economic hub, where they were received by president Alassane Ouattara.
Ouattara praised their “courage” and “patriotism” and attributed their arrest to a “terrible misunderstanding” that triggered a diplomatic crisis which was resolved with the mediation of Togo’s president, Faure Gnassingbé, whom he thanked.
“Diplomacy has paid off. We prefer that. We feel that with a brother country, there is no other way out than this. Whatever the misunderstandings, brothers always manage to understand each other and find each other,” the Ivorian was quoted as saying in a statement published by the government.
“Now that this crisis is behind us, we can resume normal relations with the brother country of Mali, which needs us and which we also need,” Ouattara added.
Mali’s interim president, Colonel Assimi Goïta, pardoned the 49 Ivorian soldiers on Friday.
They had been handed 20 years in prison by a Mali court on charges of conspiring against the government and seeking to undermine state security.
The Malian government said the move to pardon the soldiers demonstrated Colonel Goïta’s pledge to “peace, dialogue and pan-Africanism, and to the preservation of fraternal relations with the countries of the region.”
The statement added that the pardon strengthened the “dynamics” generated by the signing on December 22 in Bamako of a memorandum of understanding between both nations.
The pardon was announced a week after a Bamako Court of Appeal sentenced the 46 Ivorian soldiers, after they were arrested in July 2022 at the airport in the capital.
Three other soldiers, who were sentenced in absentia with the death penalty, were released in September.EFE