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ECOWAS to Visit Mali as Government Formation Deadline Passes

The president of Burkina Faso, Blaise Compaore, speaks during ECOWAS talks on Mali, July 7, 2012, in Ouagadougou.
An official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said a team of the sub-regional bloc and its partners is scheduled to visit Mali to assess the progress of the formation of a coalition government demanded by regional leaders.

ECOWAS political director Abdel-Fatau Musah said regional leaders want to expedite action on resolving Mali’s security and political crisis.

“There has always been a plan for a joint mission of the leadership of ECOWAS, of the UN office in West Africa, and that of the African Union to visit the country, as a way of demonstrating solidarity and instilling confidence in the population, and also facilitating together with the mediator this setting up of a transitional government representing all the major layers of society,” said Musah.

Over the weekend, Mali's interim president, Dioncounda Traoré, announced plans to overhaul his transitional government and request foreign help in retaking northern regions.

This came ahead of the deadline given by regional leaders for Mali to form an all-inclusive government expired Tuesday (July 31).

Musah said the government in Mali is coming under pressure from the military as well as the population.

“Things are changing dramatically with people putting pressure on the interim government and also the influence of the ex-junta not having diminished in any way, because all indications are that they are still trying to pull strings from behind the scene,” said Musah.

“The situation offers a cocktail of confusion and uncertainty and there is a need for such a mission to ensure that the transition is put on an even keel,” he said.

Islamist groups and Tuareg separatists seized control of northern Mali in April, after renegade soldiers overthrew the government in Mali's capital, Bamako.

The al-Qaida linked Islamists have since taken full control of the north and imposed a strict version of Islamic law, despite protests from much of the population.

The government Tuesday repeated its vow to do all it can to retake the north.

West African defense chiefs recently reviewed a report by a technical team of ECOWAS, the United Nations and the African Union that assessed the security situation in Mali.

Musah said the review will determine how quickly ECOWAS deploys its standby force to help Mali’s national army to end the rebellion in the country’s north.

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