UNITED NATIONS— Malian authorities and African regional organizations are urging the U.N. Security Council to approve the deployment of a 3,300-member African-led force to help recapture northern Mali, which is ruled by Islamist militants.
Mali’s minister of African integration, Traore Rokiatou Guikine, urged the 15-nation Security Council to act quickly to spare Mali and the region from what she said would be a “catastrophic upheaval of security."
“The terrorists have stepped up their activities and are seeking reinforcements to carry out Jihad from Mali," Guikine said. "So Mali is on the way to becoming a breeding ground for terrorism in the West African region, in Africa, and the entire world.”
Her concerns were echoed at Wednesday's meeting by representatives from the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS.
President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, told the Council that political dialogue must be combined with the military option to help the government regain Mali’s territorial integrity, dismantle terrorist networks and restore the state’s authority.
“Non-intervention in northern Mali, or any retreat in view of the urgent need to send a force, could further worsen the security and humanitarian situation which are already grounds for concern," said Ouedraogo. "And notably, this could encourage the further entrenchment of terrorist groups and criminal groups, with serious consequences for regional and international security.”
The African Union has endorsed the Malian government's request for an African-led international support mission, to be known by the acronym AFISMA. Mali and ECOWAS are seeking an initial authorization period of one year. While the troops would be African, it is not yet clear where the funding for the force would come from.
African Union U.N. Ambassador Antonio Tete asked the council to put in place a U.N. support package funded through U.N. member state contributions to finance the mission.
“Mali is at a crossroads. Time is of the essence. We need to act fast and to send a clear and strong message on the resolve of the international community and its support to the African-led efforts,” said Tete.
The U.N. Security Council asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to make recommendations regarding the possible deployment of an international force to Mali. In his report, circulated to the council last week, he said the crisis is a multi-dimensional one, comprising political, security, humanitarian and human rights elements that need to be viewed in the larger context of a suffering Sahel region.
Ban won't commit
Ban was only lukewarm on the possibility of a military mission, saying it may be required as a “last resort” to deal with the most hardline extremist and criminal elements in the north. But he cautioned that before that stage is reached, the focus must be on initiating a broad-based and inclusive political dialogue, aimed at forming a road map for transition.
France is taking the lead on drafting a resolution that would take the secretary-general’s concerns into account, emphasizing a political settlement, while the military aspect would emphasize regaining territory lost in the north.
French Ambassador Gérard Araud said he expects adoption of the resolution before the end of this year.