21 January 2013

West Africa: Ecowas Seeks Maghreb Support for Mali Action

Nouakchott — The African coalition invited Maghreb countries to help oust terrorists from northern Mali.

African states are stepping up efforts to rally support for their Mali intervention, by inviting Maghreb countries to participate in the war.

The Economic Organisation of West African States (ECOWAS) and its international counterparts seek to support the Malian and French forces that have been on the ground in northern Mali since January 11th.

One way is to bring in more help from the continent.

"I call on both Mauritania and Algeria to participate along with African and international forces in order to eliminate terrorist forces in the north of Mali," ECOWAS Chairman and Côte d'Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara said Saturday (January 19th) in Abidjan.

"I think that the In Amenas incident in south Algeria is enough to make the participation of Algeria and Mauritania in this war both justified and required," he told the gathering.

He praised Mauritania's decision "to close its borders, and to allow the international force to use its airspace to strike armed groups".

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said that African troops should deploy as soon as possible, as French troops cannot fill the role of African countries.

Africans have not eliminated the option of trying to find a political solution to the Malian crisis.

Ouattara called for "continued efforts of Burkina Faso to find a parallel and deep solution to the roots of the Malian crisis in the north through encouraging dialogue".

"The negotiations with armed groups should continue in parallel with military action in Mali," Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibril Bassolé told Sahara Media.

"The African forces deployed since this weekend, starting with the Nigerian unit, still need more co-ordination and support," commented journalist and expert in African affairs Yacoob Ould Bahadah.

"I do not expect an actual deployment of African forces on the ground before the donors conference scheduled for January 29th in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa," Ould Bahadah told Magharebia.

The European Union last week decided to allocate 50 million euros towards supporting the deployment of African forces in Mali, in addition to a grant of another 250 million euros to support development programmes and the democratic transition in Mali.

The EU agreed to send a European military training mission to Mali starting in mid-February and consisting of 450 members, including 200 trainers.

Repercussions of the war on the Maghreb

Heated debates between religious scholars and political parties are currently under way in the Maghreb on the topic of the war on terror in northern Mali.

A few Mauritanian scholars recently issued fatwas prohibiting support of the military intervention. The fatwa was promptly rejected by other religious leaders.

"The fatwa prohibiting the war on northern Mali is deemed harmful to the interests of Mauritania and Mali," Adviser to the Minister of Religious Affairs Sidi Mohamed Ould Shawaf responded.

Cheikh Ould Saleh, Cheikh Ould Zein and other leading religious scholars joined in the rebuttal statement.

"Depicting the on-going war as if it were between France and Muslims mixes up matters, urges violence, and influences young Muslims in Mauritania and other Maghreb and Islamic countries," they added.

"The Mauritanian government has a Council for Fatwas and it alone has the right to issue edicts in these matters," the imams said.

The Union of African Scholars on Thursday also issued a paper about the war on terror.

"Armed groups in northern Mali are the ones responsible for what is happening now because of the assault on centres under the control of the Government of Bamako," the Union said last Thursday.

According to the African scholars, any condemnation of French military intervention in Mali will not find any resonance on the ground unless it is accompanied by an alternative for resolving the crisis.

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