12 November 2012

West Africa: Nigeria, Others to Deploy Troops to Mali

Photo: William Lloyd-George/IPS
Malian refugees.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has resolved to send troops to Mali and Guinea Bissau to quell internal strife in the two member nations.

Heads of state and government of 15 countries in the sub-regional body met in Abuja yesterday where they agreed to present a consensus position on military intervention in the two countries to the United Nations.

The military action plan, named Strategic Concept of Operations (SCO), which is to be submitted to the UN on Thursday in order to meet the 45-day deadline, will explain the imperative of using force against the Malian insurgents.

Speaking at the extra-ordinary session of the ECOWAS authority of heads of state and government, President Goodluck Jonathan emphasized on the need for the body to implement the resolution saying people of both countries will only have succour and relief if the result of the meeting is fruitful.

"We must not fail them," he said.

"As leaders of our various countries we cannot turn a blind eye to potentially destabilizing situations in the sub-region. What has been happening in Guinea Bissau and Mali go against our collective vision of a peaceful, stable and economically prosperous region.

"You will agree with me that recent event in these two countries is an indication of organization's vision and our resolve to elevate democracy and constitutional order as the organizing principle of governance in our sub-region."

Jonathan said there is need to immediately put an end to the situations saying let us "put an end to the lingering political crises tearing the two members of our great organization, Mali and Guinea Bissau, apart.

"These two countries need to move away from conflicts and embrace development. This is what their citizens deserve. This is what all our citizens deserve."

Speaking on the political instability in Guinea Bissau, Jonathan said "the situation requires a multi-dimensional approach including the injection of funds to stabilise the country, ECOWAS goal there, as in Mali, is total restoration of constitutional order.

"We must do everything possible that the interim administration there is stable."

Also speaking at the meeting, ECOWAS chairman, President of Cote d'Ivoire Alassane Quattara said the priority of the body is to mobilise efforts to ensure that the UN pass a resolution in support of the body.

He commended the committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff of ECOWAS countries which considered and approved recommendations of military experts that crafted the SCO.

The UN Security Council had passed resolutions 2056 and 2071 calling for a road map for the restoration of constitutional order in Mali requesting that armed groups cease human rights abuses and humanitarian violations in Northern Mali respectively.

Since 17 January, insurgent groups have been fighting a campaign against the Malian government for independence or greater autonomy for northern Mali, an area known as Azawad.

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), an organization fighting to make Azawad an independent homeland for the Tuareg people, had taken control of the region by April. The MNLA were initially backed by the Islamist group Ansar Dine.

However, after the Malian military were driven from Azawad, Ansar Dine began imposing strict Sharia law. Since then, the MNLA has been fighting against Ansar Dine and another Islamist group called the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA), a splinter group of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

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