Security, good governance and development will be the African Union's (AU) priorities in 2014, according to Pierre Buyoya, the current AU High Representative for Mali and the Sahel, and head of the African‐led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA).
Buyoya, a former president of Burundi says the AU is helping Mali in its reconciliation process, following the overthrow of former President Amadou Toumani Toure, which plunged the West African nation into chaos and instability. He urged the government in Bamako to peacefully negotiate with various armed groups to stabilize the security situation in that country.
"We are really encouraging Mali to [begin] negotiations with armed groups with the aim to find a lasting solution to the conflict in the North. Once this is done, Mali could then be a stable country and take profit of all the opportunities it has inside its borders, and all the opportunities in the region," said Buyoya.
Some Malians have expressed concern that the country's security could be imperiled following the government's announcement to charge former president Toure with treason and financial malfeasance. They also contend that AFISMA's work could also be derailed. Buyoya says the government did not consult the AU before the announcement.
"This is a sovereign decision of the government of Mali and on this issue the African Union has not been consulted. Once we are consulted, maybe we'll have something to say," said Buyoya. "What we are calling for is reconciliation for Mali to create a conducive environment for reconciliation."
Buyoya says the AU is working with the government in Bamako to professionalize the national army.
"The AU is part of the different reforms in which Malian government engaged [to] reform in the security sector particularly. We are assisting the government to move in this direction," said Buyoya. "But most importantly, the African Union is now putting priority on regional issues; security [good] governance and development in the region. This is going to be our priority for 2014 and we are busy working and coordinating with other partners."
Buyoya says the AU is working closely with its international partners, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the United Nations to stabilize Mali as well as improve security in the entire Sahel region.
"Helping Mali to finalize the peace process and then putting priority on the regional level," said Buyoya.
He says the conflict in Mali's north is the root cause of the country's crisis, which eventually led to the overthrow of Mr. Toure's administration.
Buyoya says reconciliation is a critical tool Mali could deploy to resolve the country's insecurity.
"For us reconciliation means to confront these issues and to try to find a final solution for the conflict in the north. For us, this is the core issue when it comes to reconciliation," said Buyoya.