ECOWAS Cautions Against Protracted Dialogue On Mali

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Abuja - Nigeria — The ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs. Salamatu Hussaini Suleiman says it would be "dangerous" to rely on dialogue as the sole strategy for resolving the crisis in Mali sparked by the takeover of the north of the country by Islamists and secessionists.

"While dialogue remains the preferred of the two options being deployed by the region to resolve the problem, there is increasing evidence that some of the elements involved in the crisis are not amenable to dialogue," the Commissioner told the visiting Commander of the United States African Command, General Carter Ham, at the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja on Tuesday 11th December 2012.

Regional leaders had in response to the March 2012 coup that deposed former President Amadou Toumani Toure, which precipitated the current crisis adopted a two- pronged strategy of dialogue and the possible deployment of troops to resolve the accompanying political crisis and help the country restore its territorial integrity. The Commissioner said it was in recognition of the primacy of dialogue that regional leaders appointed one of their peers President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso as mediator and who has remained engaged with some of the elements in the north of the country that have indicated their preference for dialogue in resolving the situation in the northern Mali.

She, however, warned that the region will not tolerate a prolonged or open- ended negotiation, and therefore urged the International community to work together to secure the UN Security Council Chapter Seven mandate requested by West Africa, for the deployment of an African-led force, to assist Mali recover its occupied territory. The mandate, she said, will provide the region and the international community with the option of the use of force that can be exercised should dialogue fail to resolve the crisis and help the country on its road to sustainable democracy.

Commissioner Suleiman said the region plans a donors' conference to support the force operations in the country. She also briefed the visitor on the efforts being made by the region to stabilise Guinea-Bissau after the coup of April 2012 that deposed former President Raimundo Pereira, the deployment of the ECOWAS Force in that country and the ongoing Defence and Security Sector Reform for which ECOWAS has contributed 43 million dollars for the 63 million dollar programme.

In remarks at the meeting, General Ham said the US hopes elections will be held in Mali as soon as possible, adding that Washington is also desirous of working with the region to address its security challenges including those related to maritime security for which West and Central Africa are working on joint activities. The General was at the head of a delegation on a two-day visit to Nigeria, which included the Command's Coordinator for counter-terrorism, Ambassador Daniel Benjamin and the Deputy Assistant Secretary of defence for African Affairs, Amanda Dory.

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