The Malian government announced Wednesday the expulsion of the spokesman of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), Olivier Salgado, who must now leave the country within 72 hours.
This has been confirmed in a statement by the Malian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which links the decision to «the series of tendentious and unacceptable publications» by Salgado on his social networks regarding the controversial arrest of 49 Ivorian military personnel at the airport of the Malian capital, Bamako.
According to the diplomatic portfolio, Salgado has declared «without any proof» that the Malian authorities «would have been informed in advance of the arrival of the 49 Ivorian soldiers on a civilian flight», according to Radio France Internationale.
Despite the expulsion of the spokesman, Mali has stressed its predisposition to maintain dialogue and deepen cooperation «with all international partners», including MINUSMA itself.
The transitional government of Mali reported in the middle of the month the arrest of 49 Ivorian military personnel who arrived in the country in two aircraft. According to the report, the nearly fifty soldiers «were illegally on Malian national territory».
In response to this controversy, Salgado said on Twitter that the detained soldiers «were not part of one of the MINUSMA contingents».
Amid the withdrawal of French and Western troops due to tensions with the Malian military junta, the UN Security Council approved at the end of June a one-year extension of MINUSMA’s mandate in Mali until June 30, 2023.
The extension of MINUSMA’s mandate comes after France and its allies announced in February of the troops deployed in the framework of the operation ‘Barkhane’ and the Takuba Force, sent to Mali to assist Bamako in the fight against jihadism, in the face of tensions with the military junta in the African country.
Tensions have been rising in recent months due to the military junta’s announcement to extend the transition process and the alleged deployment of mercenaries from the Wagner Group, something that has been denied by Bamako and Moscow, which speak of regular military cooperation.
The transitional government has admitted the presence of Russian military instructors in the country, under a mandate similar to the one given to the European Union training mission, amidst Western suspicions about the increase of Russian influence in Africa.