Forty-six Ivorian soldiers detained in Mali since July arrived home late Saturday, according to an AFP reporter at the airport, a day after they were pardoned by the neighbouring country’s junta.
The troops, whose detention triggered a bitter diplomatic row between the countries, were arrested on July 10, 2022, after arriving in the Malian capital Bamako.
Mali accused them of being mercenaries, while Ivory Coast and the United Nations say they were flown in to provide routine backup security for the German contingent of the UN peacekeeping mission.
On Saturday, the 46 arrived at an airport in the Ivorian economic capital Abidjan.After their plane landed at 11:40 pm (2340 GMT), the uniformed soldiers disembarked one by one, each brandishing a small Ivorian flag.
They were greeted by President Alassane Ouattara before entering the presidential pavilion at the airport where their families were waiting for them.
Ouattara said he hoped the two countries could move on from the diplomatic spat.
“Now that this crisis is behind us, we can resume normal relations with the brother country of Mali, which needs us and which we also need,” he said in a speech at the airfield.
A spokesman for the soldiers thanked Ouattara, and “the Ivorian people for their support and active solidarity”.
“We are happy and relieved to return to the motherland,” he said.