A senior official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said the deployment of an African-led military force to Mali is only a matter of weeks, probably by the end of November or early December, once a final authorization has been made by the U.N. Security Council.
Abdel Fatau Musah, ECOWAS director for external relations, said it has taken this long to reach a consensus on the troop deployment because ECOWAS has been trying to take into consideration the concerns of all stakeholders, including neighboring countries Algeria and Mauritania.
His comments followed the adoption by the African Union last week of a strategic concept for military intervention and they also come as all stakeholders in the Mali crisis begin a two-day meeting in Bamako Tuesday, October 30.
Musah said the purpose of the meeting is for all the stakeholders to harmonize the different proposals about military intervention in Mali.
“We all agreed, based on the ECOWAS proposal, that all the parties, including the government of Mali, the African Union, ECOWAS, bilateral and multilateral partners, neighboring countries, including Algeria and Mauritania agreed to assembly in Bamako in Mali from the 30th of October to the first of November to finalize the concept of operation based on the draft concept that has been developed by the ECOWAS chiefs of Defense staff,” he said.
“There are the concerns being expressed by countries like Algeria and Mauritania; there are the concerns at the U.N. Security Council. If you do not get everybody on board, then some permanent members of the Security Council could veto it. So we need a consensus, and it is not easy to arrive at a consensus,” Musah said.
He said although an ECOWAS intervention force has been ready for some time, ECOWAS will need logistical, financial, and technical support from the international community.
Musah said all international stakeholders have been forthcoming about their promises to assist not only in the development or the finalization of the concept of operation, but also to extend technical, logistics and financial support.
“The EU [European Union] has expressed its interest, and France as a member of the EU has been a leading proponent of the need to assemble this force as quickly as possible. The U.S. has also expressed its determination, and UK has done so. So there is a lot of goodwill around it,” Musah said.
UN Security Council Resolution 2071, adopted on October 12, mandated ECOWAS to come up with an actionable plan for military intervention in Mali within 45 days from October 12.
Musah said the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council is expected to adopt the plan and send it to the UN Security Council by mid-November for another U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the deployment of an African-led intervention force in Mali.
“I think the major differences and reservations have been put to bed, and what we await now is that resolution that authorizes the deployment of the force under Chapter Seven of the U.N. Charter. And, we feel that that will be provided probably even before the end of November or early December, after which the deployment will start in earnest,” Musah said.
Musah said the lifting of Mali’s suspension from the African Union was a logical decision because the interim government in Bamako has met all ECOWAS and African Union demands, including the formation of a government of national unity, the adoption of a roadmap that will lead to the liberation of the north, as well as holding democratic elections.