Three female Ivorian soldiers arrived home late Saturday after being detained for nearly two months in Mali, while 46 others remain jailed in a case that has heightened tensions between the West African neighbors.
Togolese Foreign Affairs Minister Robert Dussey, whose country has been mediating talks, said the three women were “released as a humanitarian gesture” by Mali’s leader, Col. Assimi Goita.
The Ivorian soldiers were sent to Mali in July to work for Sahelian Aviation Services, a private company contracted by the United Nations.
However, Mali’s government said it considered the Ivorians to be mercenaries because they were not directly employed by the U.N. mission and charged them with undermining state security. Malian authorities said the aviation company should ‘henceforth entrust its security to the Malian defense and security forces.’
Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé has been mediating between Côte d'Ivoire and Mali for several months