Magharebia (Washington DC)

16 November 2012

Africa: Mali Military Intervention Countdown Begins

Tangier — Mali is looking forward to assistance from the international community to stabilise the country and hold elections.

Malian Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra told AFP on Thursday (November 15th) that action to retake the country's north would take place "very soon", adding a resolution would be in the UN's hands within a week.

African leaders recently announced the start of the countdown for an international Mali military intervention.

Toga McIntosh Gayewea, Vice-President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Commission, said that the heads of states and governments of the African Union approved November 11th the plan for intervention.

During his participation in the MEDays Forum in Tangier, he said the African Union recommended that the Security Council approve the plan and issue a final resolution about its implementation.

"I'm very happy that the international community reached consensus about my country's case, and that everyone is now convinced of the extent of danger posed by terrorist groups and drug-trafficking gangs in the region for world peace and security," Diarra said at a press conference Tangier.

"Before that, some were looking at the problem as an internal issue between the central state in Mali and some populations in the country," he stated.

On October 12th, the Security Council gave ECOWAS leaders 45 days to present "detailed recommendations" about military intervention to liberate northern Mali. In the first week of November, a military plan was drawn up during a meeting in Bamako in which chiefs of staffs and military experts from Africa and Europe as well as UN representatives took part.

"The plan we have submitted has two objectives, which are the mission of my interim government in Mali; namely the liberation of the entire Malian soil, and holding a free and transparent election," Diarra said. He added that all components of the Malian people agree on these two goals.

He noted that the plan would first include securing big cities, including the capital Bamako, to inhibit terrorist threats when fighting begins.

Meanwhile, the Malian government plans to commence negotiations with whom he described as citizens who have gone astray. These include Malians in the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) who prefer to keep Mali as a single state as well as individuals who are calling for the application of Sharia but are not engaged in terrorist activities, Diarra said.

The prime minister said there was a difference in opinion on how to deal with people not in those categories, including members of Ansar al-Din.

When Magharebia asked the Malian prime minister about which states would take part in the international military force, he said that Mali was happy to accept assistance from all UN member states, not just African states.

In regards to future elections, Diarra pointed out that government was working with consultants to assist in the election.

"Once the war is over, displaced people return to their homes, and the country is secured, we will immediately complete our preparations for the election that will bring Mali back to the democratic course," the prime minister said.

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