4 February 2013

Nigeria: Tafida - African Troops Will Safeguard Mali After France's Exit

Photo: UN Multimedia
UN peacekeepers in an armoured vehicle (file photo).

Nigeria's High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Dr. Dalhatu Tafida has dispelled fears that Islamic militants who are being dislodged from Mali by an international military coalition, would return after the exit of French troops that spearheaded the attacks on the insurgents.

He told Arise News Sunday that African troops would be able to secure Mali after the French troops' departure.

"They will. We have done that before. We have done that in Sierra Leone; we have done that in Liberia and we have done that in other parts of the world. We will do it once we have the resources," he added.

The French troops have secured Kidal, the last town occupied by the militants.

Tafida said that although the French have led the mission, about 2,000 African troops were already in Mali to boost the offensive and more are expected in the weeks ahead.

"A larger African-led force is also being expected to contribute more than 800 troops from various countries," he added.

Tafida also said the Federal Government had spent over $32 million for the maintenance of troops and other peacekeeping efforts in Mali.

"The country has also spent $2 million for the provision of certain amenities in the war-torn country, while an additional $7 million was being spent on other activities to restore normalcy in the crisis-torn Sahelian nation," he said.

Tafida stated that the Federal Government had sent 1,200 troops to Mali, with 900 of those troops from the Nigerian Army, while 300 were from the Air Force.

When asked if it was not disconcerting that after the militants had operated for eight months, Africans had waited for the intervention of French troops to dislodge the militants, Tafida said: "It is but not quite disconcerting because Africans are not yet to be fully developed. We are still developing in that part of the continent.

"In Nigeria, we have done very well and may be, it is the ability to mobilise in a short time that was the problem."

He pledged Nigeria would continue to take the lead in the ongoing peacekeeping efforts.

"We are already taking the lead. The president, through the Senate, has already approved the deployment of 1,200 troops and they are actually in Mali. They are just getting acclimatised towards getting proper directive," he said.

Answering questions on why the recent African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa could only raise $50 million towards the peace keeping process in Mali, while the Europeans held a conference and raised $400 million, Tafida noted that African countries were not that rich.

"We never said that Africa is rich. It is rich but not fully rich. We have resources not fully exploited. In any case, Nigeria has gone in fully. They have their military deployed there. Nine hundred of them are soldiers; 300 are from the air force.

"The Federal Government is spending more than $32 million on them. They also spent $2 million for the provision of certain amenities in Mali. They are also spending $7 million, which have been given by the president," he explained.

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