African Union vows to keep Mali one country |
By Franz Wild and William Davison, Bloomberg | July 15, 2012
July 14 (Bloomberg) -- African countries will help groups in Mali forge a government of national unity this month, before pushing for talks with northern rebels to end a crisis that has split the country and is destabilizing the region, African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra said.
Countries surrounding Mali are “very seriously” worried by the potential spread of conflict throughout the desert of northwestern Africa, Lamamra said. Touareg rebels seized the north following the ouster of Malian President Amadou Toure in a March 22 coup.
French President Francois Hollande today called on African countries to organize military intervention in Mali.
“In the north of Mali there is organized terrorism” and a group that “wants to engage in terrorism not only locally but on the African and possibly European level,” Hollande said on national television. “It’s up to the Africans to do this intervention with the support of the United Nations.”
Mali and other countries in the region last year were flooded with fighters fleeing from Libya, where they faced airstrikes by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as it sought to oust leader Muammar Qaddafi.
Insurgents from the Touareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad yesterday asked the international community for help in ridding itself of Islamists who have tried to use the group’s rebellion to impose Shariah law.
Mali vies with Tanzania as Africa’s third-biggest gold miner. Companies including AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. and Randgold Resources Ltd. operate in the southern part of the country.
Mali’s military junta has refused to step down to let a civilian government take control, reneging on promises to do so. Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore and other Africa officials will mediate talks in the Malian capital, Bamako, to create a national-unity government, which will lead Mali during a yearlong transition, Lamamra said.
A government needs to be formed before peace talks with the rebels can take place, according to Lamamra. New laws, changes to the constitution and a power-sharing arrangement are all options, as long as “the national unity and territorial integrity” of Mali is respected, he said.
“As far as the criminal groups and terrorist groups are concerned, there will be no negotiations,” Lamamra said, referring to al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. “We want the Malian groups to get away from them.” The AU also called for the rapid creation of a list of individuals to face sanctions for impeding the peace process or the return to democracy, he said.
Ansar ud-Din, an Islamist group that recently destroyed historic mausoleums in Timbuktu they regarded as “idolatrous,” are partly composed of Malians and partly of foreign terrorists, Lamamra said. While the Malians will be welcomed to the talks, foreigners will be excluded, he said.
The United Nations Security Council on July 5 asked for “additional information” before supporting an African request for military intervention in Mali. The Economic Community of West African States has sent a technical team to Bamako to assess how big a force it may need to send and will report to the Security Council by the end of the month, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, the Ecowas Commission president, said in an interview.
While only African countries would participate in an intervention force, other nations may provide funding and logistics, Lamamra said.
The African Union will also coordinate efforts to reform and strengthen Mali’s army, to help it defend itself against future incursions, Lamamra said. The coup happened after soldiers complained they weren’t sufficiently equipped to fight the northern rebels.
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