ECOWAS set-up standby force for Mali’s deployment

Channels Television  
Updated November 11, 2012

The extra-ordinary session of the authority of heads and government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has ended with an agreement to set-up a stand by force that will be in a high state of readiness for imminent deployment to Mali.

The regional body however noted that dialogue remains the preferred option in the resolution of the political crisis in West-African country.

Regarding the security situation in the northern part of the country, the leaders agreed that recourse to force may be indispensable in order to dismantle terrorists and transnational criminal networks that pose a threat to international peace and security.

ECOWAS Chairman and Nigerian President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan had earlier in his address to the summit’s opening session, stated that Nigeria fully supports the recommendations of the Chiefs of Defence Staff for an intervention force to be deployed immediately to Mali to help restore order and stability.

ECOWAS member states were urged to concretise their commitment to provide military and logistical contributions to the ECOWAS military force for the stand by force that will be in a high state of readiness for imminent deployment.

Mali’s interim president, Dioncounda Traore was also urged not to participate in the forthcoming elections while the nation’s electoral commission was advised to expedite action by unveiling a free, fair and transparent election time table, ahead of the planned transition.

The African Union had in October,  approved a political road map for Mali that foresees elections by April, a move aimed at restoring stability after a coup last March.

On Guinea Bissau, ECOWAS leaders renewed its appeal to member states to extend financial assistance to the government and called on the international community to ease sanctions imposed on the country to alleviate the sufferings of the population.

Europe to send 400 special forces to Mali

Meanwhile European armies are expected to send up to 400 Special Forces troops to Mali to join an African-led mission against Islamists allied to al-Qaeda occupying the country’s north, diplomats said.

The mission, expected to launch early next year, will be made up of as many as 3,300 troops, most of them from Mali but with reinforcements from Niger, Burkina Faso and other African nations.

“We expect that there will be support from the EU in the order of 200 to 400 military support troops to help train the African Union force,” one European diplomat with knowledge of the proceedings said.

The soldiers would mostly be tasked with training local forces and would not take part in fighting, the diplomat added.

Ansar Dine, an Islamist militia with ties to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, seized territory the size of France in Mali’s north after a military coup in March that ousted the government in the capital, Bamako.

Since then, the group has implemented strict Islamic law and has desecrated ancient sites in Timbuktu, claiming that they were “idolatrous” and against Islam.

International security agencies fear that northern Mali could become a safe haven for foreign fighters allied to al-Qaeda who are seeking territory from which to launch attacks against Western interests.

Military strategists from France, Spain, Germany, Italy and Poland will meet on Thursday to discuss their expected support for the intervention.

Britain has said that “no option is off the table” but has stopped short of committing resources so far.

The blueprint agreed in Abuja will be sent to the United Nations for discussion ahead of a Security Council resolution expected before the end of November.