Several regional leaders, who are part of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mediation effort on Mali, meet Saturday in the Burkina Faso capital, Ouagadougou, to review the crisis in Mali.
Abdel Fatau Musah, ECOWAS director for external relations, said one purpose of the Ouagadougou meeting is to explore how best to broaden the transitional government and chart a road map for elections.
“There was a summit of ECOWAS heads of state just a few days ago in Yamoussoukro and that summit took a number of decisions. One of them was to ensure that the transitional government in Mali was broad-based enough to push through a consensual transition leading to the presidential election,” he said.
Fatau Musah said Saturday’s meeting will bring together “all the identified active forces in Mali, including political parties, civil society, and elements of the military.”
ECOWAS also invited interim Malian President Dioncounda Traore to attend Saturday’s meeting. Traore has not returned to Mali since he went to Paris for medical tests following an attack by a pro-military junta mob.
Musah said ECOWAS wants Traore to be present at the meeting because he is the constitutional symbol of Mali’s transition to democracy.
“When ECOWAS facilitated the transitional government, we tried to do that as much as possible within the laws of Mali, that is through the constitution. And, according to the constitution, when a president abdicates, as was in the case of the overthrown president Amadou Toumani Touré, the next in line is the acting president. So, he’s very much a symbol of the transition,” Musah said.
ECOWAS says it has 3,300 troops ready to deploy to Mali to recapture the north held by Islamist rebels. Guinean President Alpha Conde reportedly said this week that ECOWAS wanted the request for military intervention to come from a broader unity government in Mali.
Fatau Musah said broadening the Malian transitional government would not include the Islamists in the north.
“ECOWAS has made it very clear that we are not going to negotiate with terrorist organizations. We are determined to flush them out of the northern part of Mali. The broad-based government we are talking about is basically to be anchored around the existing political parties, identifiable civil society organizations, and respected technocrats in the country,” Musah said.
He said ECOWAS’ goal is to stabilize the political situation in Bamako in order to concentrate on the rebellion in the north.
“We need a legitimate authority in Bamako who would be an interlocutor with ECOWAS in our common fight to restore the territorial integrity of the country,” Fatau Musah said.