signs of hope for Sophie Pétronin, the last French hostage

► What signs indicate a possible release of Sophie Pétronin?

Thirty jihadists were released in Mali on Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 October. About a hundred more had been taken over the weekend. These releases appeared, in the afternoon of Tuesday, as the sign of an exchange of detainees and hostages between the power of Bamako and the jihadists. At the same time, the son of French hostage Sophie Pétronin was expected in Bamako on Tuesday.

→ READ. Aid worker Sophie Pétronin, hostage in Mali, is alive

Now 75 years old, kidnapped on December 24, 2016 by armed men in Gao, in northern Mali, this nutritionist doctor is the last Frenchman detained abroad. Sophie Pétronin arrived in Gao in 2001, and founded an association which treated children suffering from malnutrition. In 2012, she escaped a first kidnapping attempt, by fleeing at night towards Algeria. She then returned to Gao. The last video released by the GSIM linked to Al-Qaida, in June 2018, showed her very tired, her face emaciated. His son denounced in a book the refusal of the French state to pay a ransom “Six-digit”.

At least eight other foreign hostages are said to remain in detention in the Sahel, including Colombian nun Gloria Cecilia Narvaez Argoti, who appeared alongside Sophie Pétronin in a video of the kidnappers. The nun of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate had been on mission in Mali for ten years when she was abducted in 2017.

► Who is Soumaïla Cissé, this other important hostage held by the jihadists in Mali?

Over the weekend, over 100 prisoners were released in the Niono sector in central Mali and in the Tessalit region in the north. It is also from Tessalit that Sophie Pétronin and Soumaïla Cissé could be brought back to the Malian capital. Soumaïla Cissé: at 70, this former leader of the parliamentary opposition, second three times in the presidential election, is a major political figure in the country. He was kidnapped on March 25 while he was on a legislative campaign in the Timbuktu region. His fate fueled the protest against former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, overthrown by a putsch on August 18.

“Discussions for his release have progressed well lately, even under the former president. Soumaïla Cissé should have been released a long time ago ”, explains Jacques Péguet, a French pediatrician who heads an NGO providing training in pediatric care in Bamako. “I will be very happy with his release, because he is someone who has things to say and whose family lifestyle is very reasonable », He adds.

► Would these releases be credited to the new government?

The release of Soumaïla Cissé was a priority for the junta. “Discussions took place between Malians, since the terrorists active in the country are also Malians, which facilitates dialogue. And we can think that Iman Mahmoud Dicko, influential in Bamako, was part of the negotiations ”, considers Jacques Péguet.

→ PORTRAIT. Moctar Ouane, a very diplomatic prime minister in Mali

The transition to power promised a return of civilians to the head of the country within eighteen months. The charter drawn up by the military assigns as objectives the re-establishment of security throughout the territory, two-thirds of which escape the control of the central power and the organization of general elections.

→ READ. Mali acquires a transitional president

On Tuesday, October 6, another sign of normalization, the West African states decided to lift the sanctions imposed on Mali after the coup, in order to “Support” the transition supposed to bring civilians back to power. A statement issued the day after the formation of a government in which members of the junta occupy strategic positions.

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