Nouakchott — International donors offer millions for Mali military aid.
Thirty-four countries and the European Union this week pledged funds to help Mali end months of occupation by al-Qaeda and Islamist group Ansar al-Din.
The conference at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa on Tuesday (January 29th) aimed at providing financial support for the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA).
The financial assistance package would also preserve the gains already achieved on the ground by Malian, African and French troops.
AU chairman and Ethiopian leader Hailemariam Desalegn offered his "sincere gratitude" at the pledges, which totalled 336 million euros.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the AU, however, had said they would need at least 737 million euros to fund both humanitarian aid and the needs of African forces.
"The current situation in Mali requires a quick and effective international response because it threatens Mali, the region, Africa and the world," African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma told attendees at the Ethiopian event.
In his remarks to the donors, Malian President Dioncounda Traore voiced appreciation for their support and promised elections before July 31st.
"The real battle will start now, which is dealing with the challenges of preserving security and countering attempts by jihadist groups to react," Malian journalist Moussa Coulibaly told Magharebia.
"The funds are also important for military supplies and for sustaining the populations in controlled areas because they may show greater co-operation with those who pay them, provide them with a living and make them feel secure, given that some local residents could still co-operate with the terrorist gangs," he said.
Meanwhile, Mauritania beefed up security on its border to prevent any potential infiltration by terrorists fleeing the advancing Malian troops.
But according to a Mauritanian trader who works near the Mali border, the tide is already turning against the armed Islamists.
"There is no doubt that most of the young people who were recruited by Ansar al-Din have abandoned the group and joined their families at refugee camps in Mauritania and other neighbouring countries," al-Salek Ould Abdel Kader said.
"As to the few who really believe in jihadist ideology, they have withdrawn to the Ifoghas mountains near Kidal," the trader told Magharebia.
Ould Abdel Kader doubts, however, that any attempt by the terrorists to regroup would be effective.
"African forces will impose their control over the entire area in the next weeks," he said.