18 December 2012

Africa: Continent's Leaders Call for Mali Intervention

Photo: US Army Africa
Senegalese and Malian soldiers train with U.S. special forces.

Nouakchott — African heads of state are demanding a faster deployment of military forces in northern Mali.

The African Union (AU) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) called on Monday (December 17th) for deploying an African force "without delay" to expel armed Islamist groups that control northern Mali.

"We have to focus on the need to send an international force without delay to put an end to the terrorist danger that is threatening peace in our region," Benin president and AU chairperson Thomas Boni Yayi said.

The AU chief made the remarks in Niamey at the opening of the summit of the Conseil de l'Entente (Council of the Accord), a regional co-operation body that includes Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Niger and Togo.

In his turn, Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou repeated his request for the UN Security Council to adopt an urgent resolution to be the legitimate umbrella that would enable Africans to combat terrorists in Mali.

"I reiterate our call to the Security Council to authorise the dispatch of an international force as soon as possible to help liberate northern Mali. Sending this force has even become an urgent thing for everyone," he said.

"Our region is facing unprecedented threats, such as terrorism and organised crime, which work together to create a condition that can explode anytime, in which case none of our countries will be spared," Issoufou said.

Analyst Mohamed Ag Ahmedu said that the African leaders' urgent statements and their desire to wage a quick war came as an implied response to the position of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who warned in late November of the consequences of any unplanned military intervention in the region.

"This has disturbed the African leaders who felt that these statements are underestimating their months-long efforts and co-ordination," the analyst added.

Malian journalist Moussa Coulibaly said that the African leaders' calls were expected as part of efforts to find a way out of this state of ambiguity, slow action and contradictory statements.

"It's about time the world realised that any minute lost in dates, delays and hesitation will further consolidate the armed terrorist groups' force," he said.

"This is because these groups realise that the war is inevitable, and... started preparing themselves months ago. Therefore, we shouldn't give them more time because this may make some countries change their minds or hesitate about participation, such as the case of some neighbouring countries," he added.

For their part, the terrorist groups renewed their defiance of any regional or international resolution to authorise action against them, as shown from statements made by Oumar Ould Hamaha, a prominent leader of the Movement for Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO). A week ago he said that his group was depending on ransom money to get prepared and pay its recruits.

Meanwhile, ECOWAS' chiefs of staffs said in a meeting Saturday in the Ivorian capital of Abidjan that their plan for military intervention against the terrorist groups in northern Mali has been completed in spite of the UN's reserved position on the Africans' proposed plan.

"We've completed the final outline of our carefully-drawn intervention plan," AFP quoted Ivorian General Soumaila Bakayoko as saying. "We have had it ratified, and we're now just waiting for the green light to go. Some member states have made promises to send military forces to support the so-called International Mission of Support in Mali (MISMA)."

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