23 February 2013

Nigeria, Others to Do Mali's Dirtiest Job - Defence Chief

Bamako — Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim says Nigeria and other African countries currently involved in the military support mission in Mali are the ones to do the dirtiest part of the job after French forces may have finally left the scene.

Admiral Ibrahim told Weekly Trust in Bamako that the UN-backed African forces will go on with the military operation in Mali's northern part and at the same time maintain law and order in other parts of the country.

The chief of defence staff was in Bamako for ECOWAS Chief of Defence Staff meeting to review the concept of operation for the ongoing support mission in Mali at which a sub-committee on the issue submitted its report on Thursday for adoption.

Giving an insight into some of the sub-committee's recommendations, Admiral Ibrahim also said the entire operations need to be reviewed given the changing dynamics and daunting challenges in the northern Mali.

He said most of the recommendations, which among many others include the need for major restructuring of troops' location, have been adopted, saying the support and cooperation of everybody to succeed in the operation is required.

Ibrahim, who was not categorical on exactly when the operations will last, however said it may take at least a year or so to even stabilise and Nigeria will do everything possible to ensure the success of the operation.

Apart from troops and other military support, Nigeria had also undertaken to contribute police personnel as part of its support in ensuring that law and order is maintained within the civilian population, he said. He said this is necessary because Nigeria is among the four police contributing countries (PCC) to the mission and the other three countries being Senegal, Togo and Gambia.

He said a total of 140 Nigerian police personnel have deployed and more will be brought depending on the circumstance at hand, saying the other three countries are equally expected to do same in line with the plan.

Admiral Ibrahim expressed satisfaction with courage of Nigerian troops, who he said were in Mali's safe zone. He said the troops are based in Banamba area of Koulikoro region, about 120 kilometres away from Bamako and nearly 1000 kilometres to the northern part of the country where the real military operation is currently taking place.

He dismissed as "wrong" the belief that the French forces have no confidence in Nigerian troops on grounds of language barrier and for which the troops were not taken to the north, saying the Banamba base for the Nigerian troops remains their area of operation.

Admiral Ibrahim, who was in company of Nigerian force commander in the support mission Major General Shehu Usman Abdulkadir and Nigeria's defence attaché in Mali Brigadier General Abubakar Sadiq Hanafi Sa'ad, said France has enormous influence in Mali and other Francophone countries being once their colonial master.

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