The Inaugural Meeting of the Support and Follow-Up Group on the Malian situation has taken place in the Ivorian capital, Abidjan, with a focus on mobilizing broader international support ahead of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)' preparation to intervene militarily in the crisis.
The Support Group, comprising ECOWAS, the African Union (AU), the European Union, the UN and representative members of the Security Council, Mali's bordering neighbors and other international actors, was established by the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) at its 314th meeting held in Bamako, Mali on March 20, 2012, and reflects a new level of international resolve to end the conflict.
Liberia's Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan, who has been actively combining efforts with other regional and continental leaders to resolve the Malian crisis, led a delegation to the meeting held at the Headquarters of the United Nations Operations in Cote d'Ivoire (UNOCI).
In a joint Communiqué issued at the end of the session, the Support and Follow-up Group demanded the complete and unconditional withdrawal of the former junta from the management of the transition government, to concentrate instead exclusively on its primary task of preserving and defending the unity and territorial integrity of Mali. The participants also demanded the immediate self-dissolution of the National Council for the Recovery of Democracy and the Restoration of the State (CNRDRE) which they say has no legal existence whatsoever.
Regarding the situation in Northern Mali, the Support and Follow-Up Group again voiced strong condemnation of the rebel, calling on them to end their armed rebellion against the Malian state; and to desist from giving sanctuary to dangerous terrorists, drug and criminal groups. On the matter of Mali's territorial integrity, the Group affirmed its unflinching support to use all necessary means to preserve and defend Mali's sovereignty against northern rebels.
The Communiqué, among several decisions, agreed to swiftly address the need and urgency for a closely coordinated, rapid and efficient international action to tackle the challenges at hand based on regional and continental efforts within AU's framework, and through close partnership with the UN and other actors of the international community.
Thursday's Inaugural Meeting concluded with a firm decision to follow-up on agreements of the meeting, including a recommendation to send a joint delegation of ECOWAS, AU, UN, European Union (EU) and permanent members of the Security Council to deliver the message of the Inaugural Meeting to all Malian stakeholders, in support of the ECOWAS Mediation efforts to restore State authority in the north.
The meeting endorsed ECOWAS' leadership in the resolution of the crisis, which will be coordinated effectively with the AU, UN and others. The Support and Follow-up Group encouraged all actors in the Malian crisis to cooperate with ECOWAS' mediation efforts to ensure participatory and all-inclusive governance, and an effective roadmap to achieve this desired outcome.
Since a military junta overthrew the constitutional authority on March 22, 2012, situations in Mali, particularly in the north, continue to deteriorate despite efforts to stabilize the situation in Bamako, and the successful formation of an interim government there. Already, rebel groups in the north have declared a separate Islamic state there.
Relative to the recent physical assault against the person of Interim Leader Dioncounda Traore on May 21, the participants reaffirmed the need to establish conditions to enable the transitional institutions to fully exercise their responsibilities without any interference by the former junta and asked for the rapid identification of all the perpetrators and sponsors of the attack to be brought to justice.
The meeting was organized by the AU in conjunction with ECOWAS, and the United Nations. It thanked the AU, ECOWAS, and the UN for taking the initiative as it expressed gratitude to the Ivorian Government for having accepted to host the meeting and the UNOCI for all logistical arrangements it has made.