ECOWAS approves 3,300-strong force for Mali

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• Nigeria, 5 others to contribute troops

From AIDOGHIE PAULINUS, Abuja, with Agency report

The Economic Community of West African summit yesterday agreed on a military force of 3,300 troops with a one-year mandate to wrest control of northern Mali from Islamist extremists, Ivory Coast’s president and chairman of the regional body said.

“We foresee 3,300 soldiers for a timeframe of one year,” Alassane Ouattara told journalists after the summit of the 15-nation organization in Abuja. The troops would come primarily from ECOWAS nations, but possibly from countries outside the bloc as well, he said.

Ouattara said he hoped the United Nations Security Council approval could come in late November or early December, which would allow the force to be put in place days afterward.

The plan is to be transferred to the UN through the African Union.

“We have countries that are offering battalions, others companies,” he said.

ECOWAS countries he named were Nigeria, Senegal, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Togo.

From outside of ECOWAS, “Chad could also participate. We have had contacts with other countries: Mauritania, South Africa.”

The summit’s final communique stressed that dialogue remained “the preferred option in the resolution of the political crisis in Mali. “However, regarding the security situation, recourse to force may be indispensable in order to dismantle terrorist and transnational criminal networks that pose a threat to international peace and security,” it said. An ECOWAS source had said earlier that regional military chiefs were proposing a total of 5,500 troops, with some 3,200 from the West African bloc and the rest from elsewhere.

It was not clear whether heads of state had rejected the proposal of if the bloc would continue efforts to reach that level. The final communique urged “member states to concretise their commitments to provide military and logistical contributions to the ECOWAS military efforts.” Yesterday’s summit came as fears grow over the risks the extremists pose to the region and beyond. A number of African leaders have spoken of the dangers of continued insecurity in the area given the safe haven a continued occupation of Mali’s north could provide to Al Qaeda-linked groups and criminal gangs.

However, ECOWAS Commission President Kadre Desire Ouedraogo has said the bloc should pursue a dual approach of dialogue and military pressure. The UN special envoy for the Sahel, Romano Prodi, a former prime minister of Italy and ex-president of the European Commission, has said every effort would be made to avoid military intervention. Some analysts have questioned whether a negotiated solution is possible with Islamist extremists intent on establishing a theocratic state.

Mali rapidly imploded after a coup in Bamako in March allowed Tuareg desert nomads, who had relaunched a decades-old rebellion for independence, to seize the main towns in the north with the help of Islamist allies. The secular separatists were quickly sidelined by the Islamists, who had little interest in their aspirations for an independent homeland. They set about implementing their version of strict sharia law, meting out punishments including stonings and destroying World Heritage shrines.

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13 Comments

  1. Ferdy just know that everything that comes from North is coursed and thats why their land a dry and desert,no rain or vegitation so as Humanbeing and Animals alike.But God has bless South,a land full of Honey,Milk,Vegitation and healthy people and Animals

  2. The strong base of Boko Haram will soon be destroyed. May Allah in his infinite mercy help them flush those idiots that called themselves islamic while given bad name to islam

  3. but what is the problem with all this islamist extremist? ” Kill kill, bomb, bomb, blood blood”, are these guys product of men or born by Beast of the jungle, b’cos they’re cruel & brutal in their domain.

  4. they are all frustracted people, even if the die they do not care that is why the engage in suicide bombing, usless animals, i suport the move, ending of nov or dec is too far, ecowas has to move in now.north remain nothing any where any day.idiots.

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