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January 28, 2013

AU Approves $50 Million for Mali Peacekeeping

by Gabe Joselow

Heads of state meeting at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa have approved funding for an African military intervention in Mali. While security is at the top of the agenda at the summit, a side-line deal to boost peacekeeping in the Democratic Republic of Congo unexpectedly fell through.
 
African leaders gave unanimous support Monday to provide $50 million to support the African peacekeeping mission in Mali and the country's armed forces, to fight a rebellion by al-Qaida-linked militants in the north.
 
AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra told reporters this is the “first time in the history of the African Union, that the budget will be used in support of a peace operation.”
 
He said the move should inspire international partners meeting Tuesday for a donors' conference to support the mission in Mali.
 
“As we move toward the donors conference tomorrow, the African Union would have given the good example, would have led by example, the rest of the international community,” said Lamamra.
 
Lamamra said the $50 million contribution amounts to about 10 percent of the total funding needed for the African-led intervention force, known as AFISMA.
 
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon offered his support for the military intervention, saying such an option is inevitable for “those terrorist groups for whom dialogue is not possible.” He told reporters Monday the U.N. is also discussing its options for backing the mission.
 
“The United Nations is now actively considering through my recommendations to the Security Council how the United Nations can help those African countries in terms of logistical support,” said Ban.
 
The head of U.N. peacekeeping operations, Hervé Ladsous, said a number of options are on the table, ranging from providing a logistics package to direct funding.
 
Meantime, heads of state from the Great Lakes Region were expected to sign a U.N.-mediated agreement Monday on a new peacekeeping force for the Democratic Republic of Congo, but the deal has been postponed.
 
Secretary-General Ban said the participants were fundamentally in agreement over the terms, but that “procedural issues” forced the delay.
 
The Great Lakes Region countries had agreed on a plan to deploy soldiers to join a U.N. Peacekeeping operation in the DRC (MONUSCO).
 
AU special representative to the Great Lakes Region, Boubacar Diarra, said the leaders are, for the most part, in agreement about the so-called Neutral Intervention Force (NIF), but still need to establish command structures and to decide the number of battalions to be deployed.

“As usual, the devil is in the details, but the experts next time - perhaps in 10 days - will meet and go into the details how to assure the full insertion of NIF into MONUSCO,” said Diarra.
 
According to the U.N., the new force is to be made up of three battalions with a mandate to actively confront armed rebel groups in eastern Congo, which include M23 rebels who briefly seized the city of Goma late last year and are now in talks with the government.