Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ouattara urges ‘others’ to help end Mali crisis

ECOWAS-led Ouattara wants more global support but France wants Africa to take lead in repelling rebels (Photo Credit: Senenews)
Ivory Coast president, Alassane Ouattara, who is also current head of the regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has said “it is high time others did their bit to help end the crisis.”
Mr. Ouattara was speaking in Abidjan, the Ivorian capital on Saturday, Jan. 19, 2013, where West African leaders at an emergency summit called for more global involvement to help repel rebels in Mali.

France, which led air-strikes against the rebels well before ECOWAS and the African Union could take military steps to resolve the crisis, also asks African nations to join the fight against the Ansar al-Dine-led rebels.

The French wants African leaders to fast-track the deployment of African troops to boost a French-backed offensive in Mali against fighters led by the al-Qaeda-linked militant group.

“The hour has come for a broader commitment by the major powers and more countries and organisations to the military operations to show greater solidarity with France and Africa,” news agencies quoted Mr. Ouattara as saying. "We must speed up the re-establishment of Mali's territorial integrity with the logistical support of our partners and go beyond our current deployment numbers."

He also called for international financial support for African nations involved in the attempt to resolve Mali crisis. 

At the emergency summit, France foreign minister Laurent Fabius said African nations must take lead.  

"France was obliged to intervene very, very rapidly, otherwise there would have been no more Mali ... but it is well understood that it is the Africans that must pick up the baton," he is quoted as saying.

Fighters from the Al Qaeda-linked Islamist group MUJWA, who are travelling with a convoy including Burkina Faso foreign minister Djibril Bassole, stand guard in Gao, northern Mali, August 7, 2012. (Photo Credit: REUTERS/Stringer)
The summit followed Malian soldiers who are backed by French troops seizing a key central town from rebels who had advanced from their northern stronghold, threatening the capital Bamako.

Horrific rights abuses

As fighting to seize key territories from rebels progressed, a New York-based agency, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it had received credible reports of horrific abuses being committed in Mali.

It said reports of serious abuses, including killings, are being committed by Malian security forces against civilians around the central town of Niono.

In a statement HRW said: "We urge the Malian authorities, as well as the French and [West African] soldiers/authorities to do their utmost to ensure the protection of all civilians."
It added that Tuaregs and Arabs, ethnic groups most associated with rebels who have controlled Mali's north, were being especially targeted. 

Mission postponed

Meanwhile European Union announced on Friday it has postponed a joint African, Caribbean and Pacific States-European Union (ACP-EU) Parliamentary Assembly fact finding mission to Mali.

The Co-Presidents of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly, Louis Michel and Musikari Kombo, took the decision to postpone the fact-finding mission which was planned from 21 to 24 Jan. 2013 in Bamako.

In a Jan. 18 statement, the EU said the “Co-Presidents agreed to postpone this mission in order not to hamper the work of the parties most involved on the ground and to respect the decisions adopted by the Security Council of the United Nations, the African Union and ECOWAS, and after having conducted an evaluation of military and political developments.”

They express full support for France and its allies undertaking action in accordance with the international legal framework of the Charter of the United Nations. 

They also welcome the future deployment of the Mission for Support of Mali (MISMA), an African force of 3000 troops from members of the West African States (mainly Benin, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Togo) - which has been called upon to take over from French military forces.

Written by Modou S. Joof

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