On Friday, a Mali court sentenced 46 Côte d’Ivoire soldiers to 20 years in prison for conspiring against the government, and three others to death in absentia.
In July, 49 Ivorian soldiers were detained at the airport in Mali’s capital, Bamako, three of whom were later released. Their arrests sparked a diplomatic row between the two countries, as well as widespread condemnation from regional allies.
Mali’s ruling junta claimed the soldiers were mercenaries, while Côte d’Ivoire claimed they were part of a UN peacekeeping mission.
They were charged in August with attempting to undermine state security and convicted in a trial that began on Thursday and ended on Friday, just days before a deadline set by West Africa’s main political and economic bloc to release them or face sanctions on January 1.
Côte d’Ivoire has stated that its troops are being held hostage and has repeatedly requested their release. Last month, the country announced that it would withdraw its remaining soldiers from the United Nations peacekeeping mission.
Mali, one of Africa’s most volatile countries, has relied on regional allies and peacekeepers for a decade to contain Islamist insurgents who have killed thousands and taken over large areas of the central and northern regions.
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