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West African Defense Chiefs Meet Over Mali Crisis

  • Peter Clottey

Burkina Faso President Blaire Compaore (R), the top mediator in Mali's crisis, and his delegation meet at the presidential palace in Ouagadougou with rebel leaders (R) from the Islamist Ansar Dine, one of the groups controlling the country's north, June 1
Defense chiefs of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are scheduled to meet in an extraordinary summit on the continuing security crisis in Mali Wednesday. The meeting will be held in Ivory Coast’s commercial capital, Abidjan.

ECOWAS communications director Sonny Ugoh said the defense chiefs will review a report by a technical team of ECOWAS and the African Union that recently assessed the situation in Mali.

“[They] will evaluate the report of the technical mission that just came back from Mali, and it is part of the process of helping us determine the requirements for the deployment,” said Ugoh.

West African leaders recently met in the Burkinabe capital, Ouagadougou, with representatives of political parties and other civil society groups to talk about the way forward in Mali. The leaders resolved to send an ECOWAS standby force to the troubled member state.

This came after some Malians called for more support for the national army so it can crush the rebellion in the north. Ugoh said an ECOWAS standby force is ready to help.

“We are waiting for the government in that country to invite us [to meet] the legal basis for us to be able to deploy there,” said Ugoh. “The regional security architecture gives us some latitude to be able to intervene when we find situations that contribute to the instability in the region.”

Ugoh said ECOWAS seeks to expedite the resolution of Mali’s security and political challenges in order to restore constitutional order in that West African country.

Regional heads of state that form the contact group on Mali have called on all interested domestic parties to form a government representing all segments of society.

Ugoh said the transitional government has a time frame for forming an all-inclusive government that would be representative of the entire Mali population.

“There was a deadline that was given and we believe that within the context of the deadline, it should be possible for them to reach some form of arrangement that will ensure an inclusive government,” Ugoh said.

“I believe the government is within that deadline for forming a government of national unity," he added. "The earlier, the better, because the challenge that is confronting the country is quite massive… and we need to resolve the little political issues that will enable us to now to be able to work together to confront the challenge in the north.”