Cameroon Tribune (Yaoundé)

Mali: African Contingents Continue Deployment in Mali

More nations are offering troops to help free the northern half of the country from rebels.

As efforts continue to free northern Mali from Islamic rebel control, more African contingents are arriving the country. Among the latest to arrive were an advance party of Senegalese soldiers that landed in the Malian capital, Bamako on Sunday, January 20, 2013. The rest of the contingent of 500 soldiers is expected in the country at a yet-to-be unannounced date, RFI radio reported.

Meanwhile, Chadian and Niger troops are preparing to cross over into Mali by land to join in the liberation efforts. Niger President, Mahamadou Issoufou, on Tuesday January 22, 2013 visited and encouraged his troops on the Malian border as they prepare to cross over and head towards the north-eastern town of Gao.

The regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, has pledged to send 3,000 soldiers for the African-led International Support Mission in Mali, AFISMA, in line with a United Nations resolution. The force will be headed by General Shehu Abdulkadir from Nigeria. Some 2,000 African soldiers are expected in Mali by January 26. Nigeria has since increased its troop pledge from 900 to 1,200 and a contingent of around 100 soldiers is already in Mali. Earlier, a Nigerian technical team, in addition to the Force Commander, was already deployed on the ground.

Chad, which is not an ECOWAS member, has promised 2,000 soldiers and Togo a total of 540 men. Niger and Burkina Faso have promised 500 soldiers each while Benin has said it will deploy 300 men, Guinea Conakry 150, Ghana 120, while Liberia has pledged to send some troops also. Speaking in an interview on Tuesday, January 22, 2013, Nigeria's Foreign Affairs Minister, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashirun, said the situation in Mali was a national security concern to his country as the link between Boko Haram militants and the terrorist insurgents in northern Mali has been established beyond all doubts, The Guardian newspaper of Nigeria reported.

RFI equally reported yesterday, January 23, 2013 that following the recent victories of French and Malian forces in central Mali, the Islamic militants had fled to Kidal on the border with Algeria, some 1,500 km from Bamako.

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