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Analyst: the idea of mercenarism in Mali is tenable

Soldiers of the Malian army are seen during a patrol on the road between Mopti and Djenne, in central Mali, on February 28, 2020.   -  
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Analysts are now weighing in on the diplomatic row in west Africa following the arrest of Ivorian soldiers at Mali's Bamako airport, accused of being "mercenaries" by the Malian authorities.

Dr. Aly Tounkara, Executive Director of the Centre for Security and Strategic Studies in the Sahel and political analyst reflects on the situation.

"According to the first factual elements given by the State of Mali, the idea of mercenarism is tenable. But at the same time, when one also considers societal aspects, the idea of old habits remains tenable as a hypothesis: that these are people who have always been deployed without the state of Mali being informed," said Tounkara.

He added, "the second hypothesis, which is also to be taken into account at this stage, is that the military elite in power would seek not only to have effective control over all the security elements operating on Malian territory but its also a way for the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the political-military elite in power to establish their legitimacy in the eyes of the public, in terms of their ability to deal with threats, whatever their nature."

Ivory Coast on Tuesday called on Mali to release 49 of its soldiers "unjustly" detained at Bamako airport and accused by officials of being mercenaries.

" It is a bit early to claim victory in terms of effective control over the entire territory when we know that everything that is still underway, so prudence must be the order of the day, as for optimism, it must certainly be prudent," said Tounkara.

Mali on Monday had said the troops from the Ivory Coast were armed and "mercenaries", having detained them on arrival.

The Ivorian authorities have insisted the soldiers had arrived to join MINUSMA, the UN peacekeeping force in Mali.

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