Soumaila Cisse, the leader of the opposition Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD) party in Mali, who was abducted in March, made his first contact with his family members since the incident, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.
Cisse, who had been campaigning in his home area of Niafounke in Timbuktu region, prior to parliamentary elections, went missing on March 25. Timbuktu is a restive area in central Mali where Islamist militants are active and ethnic violence is rife.
The ICRC said in a statement that it handed letters from Cisse to a member of his family.
“After many months without contact, to be able to get news of a loved one is of invaluable comfort for the family,” the ICRC said.
The ICRC clarified that the letters only had family information and it was not participating in negotiations for Cisse’s release.
“As a neutral and independent humanitarian entity, when an agreement is found between the parties concerned, the ICRC is willing to facilitate a possible transfer of hostages.”
The abduction of the 70-year-old stunned the West African nation where such incidents involving senior politicians are not common despite the numerous security challenges it faces.
Cisse, a former Finance minister, has contested in presidential elections in Mali thrice: in 2002, 2013 and 2018.
He lost the last two elections to Ibrahim Boubacar Keita who was ousted in a military coup on Tuesday after weeks of civilian protests.
Mali has been plagued by deadly ethnic and jihadist violence since 2012 when a revolt broke out leaving thousands of people dead and thousands of others displaced.
Mali’s military has failed to stem the violence despite support from France and the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA.