4 December 2012

Mali: African Union, UN Disagree Over Mali Plan

Nouakchott — The UN Secretary-General's report on intervention in Mali received harsh criticism from African states.

Ministers from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned the UN on Monday (December 3rd) in Abidjan for being "out of touch" over its lack of urgency in taking action in Mali.

"Non-intervention or any reduction over the urgency of sending a force could worsen the security and humanitarian situation in the region and in Africa," ECOWAS ministers warned.

African Union Chairman and Benin President Thomas Boni Yayi also criticised the latest report submitted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to the Security Council on the risks of military intervention in northern Mali.

"The general view is that the contents of the report appear to fall relatively short of the expectations of the African continent," Boni Yayi said in a letter to the UN Secretary-General.

"Any waning over the need to send an international force to fight terrorism in northern Mali will be interpreted as an expression of weakness against terrorists," he said.

Military intervention in northern in Mali "may be required as a last resort to deal with the most hard-line elements", Ban said in the November 28th report. "Fundamental questions remain unanswered," he said.

The report focused more on the disadvantages of military intervention than on the advantages.

"Military operations may be required at some point, as a last resort, to dislodge al-Qaeda and its allies from northern Mali," it said.

In particular, the secretary-general criticised the lack of detail in the strategic plans presented to him by the AU and ECOWAS.

Ban mentioned the many issues which have yet to be resolved, including "how the force would be led, sustained, trained, equipped and financed".

Military intervention could "risk ruining any chance of a negotiated political solution to the crisis, which remains the best hope of ensuring long-term stability in Mali", he added.

Though UN peacekeepers will not be sent in, the secretary-general suggested that member states should contribute on a voluntary basis.

"The UN is not best placed to address the security threat posed by terrorist groups," Ban said. However, The UN plans to boost its presence by fielding human rights experts and a large contingent of observers in Bamako.

Meanwhile, Malian President Dioucounda Traore met his Nigerien counterpart Mahamadou Issoufou in Niamey on December 2nd, where the two expressed their confusion over the UN's position.

In a statement issued at the end of this visit, both sides said that they did "not understand this back-pedalling, which merely gives terrorist groups more time to establish themselves in Mali".

"While the people of northern Mali suffer abuses committed on a daily basis by these four groups which are active, the international community, through the UN, has opted to backtrack," the statement said.

"Nothing, absolutely nothing, can justify this position of the UN when ECOWAS and the African Union have agreed to the deployment of an intervention force to help Mali's military take back control of the remainder of the occupied territory," Issoufou said.

Both heads of state called on the UN to take greater responsibility for resolving the crisis.

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