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Mali, ECOWAS Urge UN Stabilization Force

  • Margaret Besheer

Soldiers rest at the Malian military base in Diabaly, which just 10 weeks ago was under control of Islamist rebels, 400 km from Bamako, March 15, 2013.

Soldiers rest at the Malian military base in Diabaly, which just 10 weeks ago was under control of Islamist rebels, 400 km from Bamako, March 15, 2013.

Mali and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS have given their consent to the United Nations to deploy a stabilization mission to Mali and are urging its rapid deployment.

In a report to the U.N. Security Council last week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon offered two options for a peacekeeping force for Mali after France withdraws its troops.

In the first option, the current 7,000-strong African-led force, known as AFISMA, remains in the country but is linked to the United Nations and is funded from the U.N. budget.

The second option transitions and expands this force into a full-fledged U.N. stabilization mission of about 11,200 troops. Alongside it, a parallel force would be created to conduct counterterrorism operations.

On Wednesday, Mali’s U.N. ambassador, Oumar Daou, told the 15-nation Security Council that the Malian authorities prefer the second option.

“The government of Mali remains convinced that this option will enable it to achieve its objectives — objectives which are to restore the sovereignty of the Malian state throughout its national territory, as well as to stabilize and to engage in an effort of national reconciliation," he said.

The envoy warned that not all of Mali’s territory has been retaken from extremist armed groups and that they are resorting to new tactics, including laying landmines and conducting suicide and car bombs, in an effort to counter offensive by French and Malian forces.

French forces entered Mali in January to drive back Islamist militants who had taken control of the north and were pushing south toward the capital, Bamako.

Speaking for ECOWAS Wednesday, Ivory Coast Ambassador Youssoufou Bamba said Mali has the support of the 16-nation West African bloc in its request for a U.N. stabilization mission.

“ECOWAS is of the view that Mali urgently requires multi-dimensional assistance that addresses all aspects at the same time," he said. "That is, aspects pertaining to security, peace, humanitarian assistance, human rights support, support for the political dialogue and for the electoral process. These are things that only a United Nations peace operation can achieve.”

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said Washington fully supports a multi-dimensional, integrated U.N. operation that can sustain the security gains made by French and African forces and galvanize the political process.

She said the transition to a U.N. force should occur only when security conditions permit.
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