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Between Mali and Côte d'Ivoire, more than just a matter of soldiers?

Before the arrest of Ivorian soldiers in Mali, which has soured relations between the two countries for three months, Bamako had accused Abidjan of having derailed a transaction within the framework of a huge mining contract.

46 soldiers have been at the heart of a conflict between Bamako and Abidjan for several months. President Alassane Ouattara has had a grudge against the Goïta regime since Ivorian soldiers were arrested in Mali. The story begins last July, when the Malian Minister of the Interior, Abdoulaye Maïga, explains in a press release that he arrested Ivorian soldiers who were, in reality, mercenaries seeking to destabilize Mali. Since then, Bamako and Abidjan have not stopped talking, sometimes with some tension.

In September the Malian junta had agreed to release the soldiers, provided that Malian political figures living in Abidjan are sent back to Bamako. On the side of Côte d'Ivoire, this request from the power in place in Mali was to be considered as "a hostage-taking which will not remain without consequence", Abidjan considering it as an "unacceptable deal".

A mining contract worth more than a billion dollars

A true dialogue of the deaf which resulted in the withdrawal, from Côte d'Ivoire, of its troops from the UN mission in Mali. On November 11, Abidjan announced in a letter that its 900 soldiers would indeed leave Mali. “The relief of the protection company based in Mopti as well as the deployment of staff officers and police officers scheduled respectively for October and November 2022 can no longer be carried out,” says the Ivorian government.

But an investigation by Africa Intelligence affirms that, "among the factors having led to the spectacular deterioration of relations between Abidjan and Bamako" would be "a mining contract worth more than a billion dollars signed in October 2021 between a German company and a Malian group. This agreement, signed in October 2021, involves the creation of a joint venture between RavenFinance and the Kankou Moussa Refinery (KMR) gold refinery, based at Modibo-Keïta International Airport.

On the bottom of sanctions from sub-regional bodies against Mali, this contract is important for the Goïta regime. But 56 million euros transferred by the German company disappeared in nature. The Malian colonels then directly accused the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Alassane Ouattara, considered very close to the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), of having block the transfer of funds.

Salvo exchanges

At the end of October, Mali sent Côte d'Ivoire a proposal for a confidential agreement, with a view to the release of the Ivorian soldiers, in which Bamako wrote that "the two parties refrain from any political, logistical, military and financial support for all entities, persons or forces hostile to either party” and renounce the “recourse to political, military, economic and financial sanctions within the framework of regional institutions”. Alassane Ouattara brushes aside the Malian proposal with the back of his hand.

Still, since these accusations without evidence, Alassane Ouattara and Assimi Goïta seem irreconcilable. Are the arrests of soldiers linked to this burning issue? Be that as it may, the Ivorian president has since accused Mali of supporting Guillaume Soro, his exiled opponent. Again, no evidence of links between Bamako and the Ivorian has been published. Despite everything, the two African powers continue the discussions. Will the Ivorian soldiers soon be released, even if the mystery of the disappearance of tens of millions of euros remains?

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