By Enyichukwu Enemanna
49 soldiers who were detained by Bamako last year on charges of “spying” and “undermining national security” were on Tuesday honoured with top national awards by their country, Ivory Coast.
In a ceremony on Tuesday, the 49 were named, “knights of the National Order of the Republic”, the lowest of three rungs in the top award for services to the nation.
They were among 852 service personnel honoured for their deployment in the UN-backed MINUSMA peacekeeping operation.
Their arrest at Bamako airport in July last year, detention and eventual imprisonment by Mali triggered a bitter diplomatic row between the two West African countries.
Ivory Coast and the United Nations insisted that the troops were flown in to provide routine backup security for the German contingent of the UN peacekeeping mission, but Mali accused them of being mercenaries.
A deadline by ECOWAS forced the authorities in Bamako to release the soldiers or face sanctions. A Bamako court on Dec. 30 sentenced the 46 soldiers to 20 years in prison, while three women soldiers who had been released received death sentences in absentia.
All 49 were however, granted pardon by junta leader, Assimi Goita on January 6 after series of mediation.
Armed forces chief, Lassina Doumbia hailed their work as “contributing to guaranteeing the security of our borders.”
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Publish date : 2023-01-25 16:05:54