This Day (Lagos)

West Africa: Nigeria, Other Ecowas States Welcome France Intervention in Mali

Nigeria and other members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Thursday welcomed the intervention of France in the terrorism crisis rocking Mali even as African Union ministers sitting during the 22nd Ordinary Session of the Executive Council in Addis Ababa adopted a resolution to set up a standby force to tackle the menace of insecurity on the continent.

The 22nd Ordinary Session of the Executive Council precedes the 20th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union scheduled for January 27 and 28 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The theme is "Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance."

Foreign Affairs Minister, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru while welcoming the intervention during his remark at the foreign minister's session noted that if France had not intervened, Mali would have ceased to exist a country.

"It was in realisation of the seriousness of this that Nigeria has deployed 1200 troops to the country to be part of an ECOWAS led force (AFISMA) of which a Nigerian is the commander."

He pointed out that Nigeria has also airlifted humanitarian supplies to the country and supported the interim government financially.

"We welcome the promise of deployment of troops by Chad, Tanzania, South Africa and Rwanda to Mali." Ashiru said.

Briefing the press later on the decisions taken at a closed door session of the summit, Ashiru said the African foreign ministers, who constitute the Executive Council of the AU, adopted a resolution to establish an African standby force to tackle the menace of terrorism and other insecurity issues in future.

According to him, member states are to contribute troops and necessary finances to this force.

"The general thrust is that events in Africa today have shown us that we need immediately the creation of an African Union standby force that would be in place and ready for deployment to any troubled spot within the continent," Ashiru said, adding that what is obtainable at the moment is that when events take place the continent starts assembling troops that will be used for intervention.

He said the council agreed that a lot of time is lost in this process and a lot of damage is done before the assemblage of such soldiers to police the troubled region or country.

"It is now the consensus that we should accelerate the creation of the African Union standby force," the minister said noting that the events in Mali would have been a big problem if not for the quick deployment of African-led International Support Mission for Mali (AFISMA) in the northern parts of the country.

"Only France would have been there fighting terrorists" he noted.

Throwing more light on the funding of the standby force, Ashiru said since each country has a standing army, to make token contributions towards the sustenance of a standby force would not be a big issue.

While welcoming the African foreign ministers during the beginning of the session, the chairperson of the AU Commission (AUC), Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, said the AUC is to focus on key areas of human development, agriculture, industrialization and peace.

"We identify key priorities on which to concentrate attention, so that we accelerate our agenda for an integrated and prosperous continent, at peace with itself," she said.

According to her, through prioritization, the AUC will be able to set more realistic outcomes that can be achieved by the end of the period.

Dlamini-Zuma indicated that the AUC believes it should focus on human capacity development focusing on health, education, science, research, technology and innovation; agriculture and agro processing; inclusive economic development through industrialization, infrastructure development, trade and investment; peace, stability and good governance.

Other areas are mainstreaming women and youth; resource mobilization; building a people-centred Union through communication and strengthening the institutional capacity of the AUC and all its organs.

"We have continental policy frameworks, strategies and often action plans in most if not all of these areas. What we will do, with inputs from Member states and Regional Economic Communities, is to identify key outcomes in each area, which we must implement resolutely, so that we can begin to see impact and decisive movement forward," she said.

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