News / Africa

UN Chief: African Troops Should Convert to Peacekeepers in Mali

French soldiers search people at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Gao, Mali, February 14, 2013. French soldiers search people at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Gao, Mali, February 14, 2013.
x
French soldiers search people at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Gao, Mali, February 14, 2013.
French soldiers search people at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Gao, Mali, February 14, 2013.
Reuters
An African force currently in Mali should be converted into a U.N. peacekeeping operation and a separate combat force should be created to confront Islamist threats, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recommended to the Security Council on Tuesday.
       
The U.N.-backed African force in Mali is due to take over from France when it starts withdrawing its 4,000 troops from the country in late April.
       
In a report to the 15-member Security Council, Ban recommended that the African force, known as AFISMA, become a U.N. peacekeeping force of some 11,200 troops and 1,440 police - once major combat ends.
       
To tackle Islamist extremists directly, Ban recommended that a so-called parallel force be created, which would work in close coordination with the U.N. mission.
       
Diplomats have said France is likely to provide troops for the smaller parallel force, which could be based in Mali or elsewhere in the West Africa region.
       
"Given the anticipated level and nature of the residual threat, there would be a fundamental requirement for a parallel force to operate in Mali alongside the U.N. mission in order to conduct major combat and counter-terrorism operations,'' Ban wrote.
       
The parallel force would not have a formal U.N. mandate, though it would be operating with the informal blessing of the Security Council. The report did not specify a time limit for the mission.
       
The Security Council was due to be briefed on Wednesday on Ban's recommendations and diplomats hope a vote to approve the peacekeeping force can take place by mid-April.
       
France began a military offensive in January to drive out Islamist fighters, who had hijacked a revolt by Mali's Tuareg rebels and seized two-thirds of the West African country. Paris said Mali's vast desert North was in danger of becoming a springboard for extremist attacks on the region and the West.
       
In a nine-week operation French, Chadian and Malian troops have driven the Islamists into desert hideaways and mountains near the Algerian border. French President Francois Hollande said recently that Mali's sovereignty had almost been restored.
       
However, Islamist fighters attacked northern Mali's largest town, Gao, over the weekend. It was the third major offensive there by the rebels since the town was retaken by a French-led military operation in late January.
       
Child Recruits

The African force in Mali is made up of troops mainly from West Africa, including more than 2,000 Chadians. Other than Chad's contingent, most African elements remain in the south of Mali away from the fighting.
       
The United Nations would only take on security responsibilities in Mali when "the necessary security and political conditions were deemed to be in place, following an assessment by the (U.N.) Secretariat.''
       
Mali's government hopes to hold elections in July, but Security Council diplomats and U.N. officials said that goal may be overly ambitious.
       
Ban said that once the African soldiers become a U.N. peacekeeping force, the majority of the troops and police would operate in the north of the country, while there would be a "light presence'' based in the country's capital, Bamako.
       
"The force would operate under robust rules of engagement, with a mandate to use all necessary means to address threats to the implementation of its mandate, which would include protection of civilians,'' Ban said.
       
"This could include the conduct of operations on its own or in cooperation with the Malian ... forces,'' he said.
       
Ban also suggested that the Security Council consider establishing an independent group of experts to investigate transnational and organized crime in Mali with the possibility of imposing punitive, targeted sanctions.
       
Mali was once viewed as an example of a working democracy in Africa, but its north has been a center of cross-desert trafficking of drugs, stolen goods and Western hostages. Border towns are used as transit hubs for trans-Sahara cocaine and hashish smuggling.
       
Ban raised serious concerns in the report about human rights violations being committed in northern Mali, including summary executions, illegal arrests and forced disappearances, use of children by armed groups, rape, forced marriages and looting.
       
"Hundreds of children have been recruited by all of the armed groups active in the north, including AQUIM (al Qaeda's north African wing), Ansar Dine, MUJAO and the MNLA,'' he said.
       
"The capture and detention of children for intelligence purposes is also an emerging trend that needs to be addressed as a matter of the utmost urgency,'' Ban wrote.

You May Like

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid