This Day (Lagos)

23 August 2012

West Africa: Jonathan Sues for Dialogue in Resolving Mali, Others Insurgency

Photo: WFP/Justin Smith
Food has become increasingly scarce in northern Mali.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will continue to follow the path of diplomacy and dialogue in the resolution of the insurgency in Mali, President Goodluck Jonathan has affirmed.

President Jonathan who also said military option, as approved by the sub regional body, would be the last resort, explained that ECOWAS did not intend to force troops into the troubled country at the expense of dialogue.

He made the explanation in Dakar during a visit to the Senegalese President, Macky Sall, disclosing that the way forward on the crisis in Mali and Gambia was stemming the tide of the conflicts through constructive engagements.

His words: "the world unfortunately is passing through a period that people are becoming aggressive. These are some of the challenges that African leaders are going through. The situation in Mali is a complex one. We are working to stabilize the government in Mali. We are reaching out to them to first stabilize the government of Mali.

"Diplomacy and negotiation is the first step. It is only when that fails that ECOWAS will move troops there. But we cannot do that alone; it has to be done with the collaboration and mandate of the United Nations. But first and foremost, we are negotiating. We are trying to stabilize the government. Through negotiation, I'm sure, we will resolve the issue."

Advising African leaders to be out-spoken on conflicts afflicting their neighbours, President Jonathan observed that refraining from such will only exacerbate crisis and escalate the loss of lives and property.

"African leaders will no longer keep quiet. That was how the genocide in Rwanda escalated. We believe that we all have a stake in what is happening anywhere in the continent. That is how we were able to salvage Niger; that is how we were able to save Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire. We will continue to do our best," he said.

Following the ouster of the legitimate government in Mali by the military junta, rebels took over the northern part of the country and have refused to relinquish their hold on the region months after the democratically elected government was restored as demanded by ECOWAS and the UN. President Jonathan and his Burkina Faso counterpart are core negotiators in the crisis.

On the criticisms that his administration had not done enough to stop attacks by the Islamist sect, Boko Haram, the president pointed out that government was working hard to end the attacks. He said, however, that he should not be expected to order troops to obliterate any part of the country.

"If you use superior fire power, you will wipe out people. You would have noticed that the issues are coming down gradually it is not something you can wipe out with a wave of the hand. Those saying that we are not doing something about Boko Haram are not being realistic," he affirmed.

Jonathan who described his visit as brief and fulfilling said aside from sub regional issues, his discussion with Sall also included some economic issues that the two countries needed to work together to help their citizens such as in the area of energy and commerce.

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