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ECOWAS to Meet on Mali, Guinea Bissau Crises

  • Peter Clottey

Burkina Faso President Blaire Compaore (R), the top mediator in Mali's crisis, and his delegation meet at the presidential palace in Ouagadougou with rebel leaders (R) from the Islamist Ansar Dine, one of the groups controlling the country's north, June 1

Burkina Faso President Blaire Compaore (R), the top mediator in Mali's crisis, and his delegation meet at the presidential palace in Ouagadougou with rebel leaders (R) from the Islamist Ansar Dine, one of the groups controlling the country's north, June 1

West African heads of state and government are scheduled to meet in extraordinary summit Friday in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast to discuss security concerns in both Mali and Guinea Bissau.

Sonny Ugoh, the communications director at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said the leaders will review regional efforts to find solutions to resolve the ongoing security concerns in both countries.

Observers say a coup d’état and a Tuareg rebellion in northern Mali increased security concerns in that West African country.

“They are going to be briefed by their colleague, President Blaise Compaore, about the status of the mediation of the crisis in Mali,” said Ugoh.

“They will also be briefed by the president of the ECOWAS commission, Ambassador Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, about what is going on in Guinea Bissau in the context of [the] mandate of regional [efforts] about sending a standby force to Guinea Bissau.”

He said Ouedraogo will officially be sworn in Friday as president of the ECOWAS commission during the summit.

Reports say Islamist militants are streaming into the northern Mali town of Gao, one day after ousting a Tuareg rebel group in clashes that killed at least 20 people. The al-Qaida-linked militant group, known as MUJAO (The Unity Movement for Jihad in West Africa), took control of Gao from the Tuareg separatist MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) Wednesday.

Some Malians recently protested calling on authorities to resolve the lack of security.

ECOWAS mediators have been holding talks with MNLA representatives and the Islamist militant group Ansar Dine to explore ways to reach a negotiated solution. At the same time, regional leaders are preparing troops and asking for formal UN backing for an intervention force for northern Mali.

But, critics say the sub-regional bloc has been ineffective in resolving the violence in northern Mali. But, Ugoh disagrees.

“I think heads of state have acted with the best interest of the region and our member state, Mali…You can be sure that heads of state, as is characteristic of them, will review the situation and take a decision that would be in the best interest of Mali and West Africa,” he said.

ECOWAS has also expressed concern about a coup d’état in Guinea Bissau and the refusal of coup leaders to swiftly return to constitutional order, as demanded by the West African grouping.

“After the briefing, the leaders will have to give instructions as to the other steps that need to be taken in the context of reversing the situation in Mali. They have already taken a decision as to sending a force there,” said Ugoh.
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