New York: The improved situation in Mali had "opened new prospects" for the West African country's recovery from near collapse in 2012, but the security situation remained fragile amid asymmetric attacks by extremists and tensions within the Armed Forces, the senior United Nations official in the country told the Security Council today. Urging all actors to formulate a transparent road map for inclusive peace talks as a matter of priority, Albert Gerard Koenders, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Mali, emphasized that the real work had only just begun.
Abuja: Nigeria has faulted the timing of the United Nations’ intervention in the peacekeeping efforts in Mali, since ECOWAS troops and African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) have done the job already by restoring peace, stabilising the country and conducting elections. The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim, made this assertion yesterday, when the African Union (AU) Assessment Team to ECOWAS Commission on the level of preparedness towards the AU Standby Force (ASF) led by Ambassador Ibrahim Gambari, visited the Ministry of Defence, Abuja.
New York: Presenting his eagerly-awaited strategy to put the strife-torn Sahel back on its feet, the United Nations Special Envoy for the region called on the Security Council to back a framework that would guide the Organization’s collective efforts in capacity building to address resilience, cross-border threats and inclusive governance. “Only a strategy that goes beyond the existing efforts will allow the Governments of the region to overcome the [immense challenges] and move towards long-term peace and stability,” said Romano Prodi, briefing the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on the situation in the region, where years of successive political and humanitarian crises have been exacerbated by the spread of terrorism, organized crime and the recent conflict in Mali.
New York: As the United Nations prepares to take over from the African-led mission in Mali, top officials called on Member States to contribute critical resources, including personnel and equipment, to ensure that the world body can support the country with key tasks such as implementing the recent ceasefire accord and preparing for next month’s elections. “The success of these activities will depend on key confidence building and assistance to put Mali on the path of stability,” said Bert Koenders, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Mali and head of the new UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
Koulikoro: Under a blazing sun and the critical gaze of British and Irish instructors, a line of 11 Malian soldiers lie prone in the dust firing AK-47 rounds at targets, one-by-one. "One out of 10 - not very good," Captain Ibrahim Soumassa, commander of the Malian unit, tells one of the men. "We're at 25 meters. When we're at 100, it'll be difficult."
London: By the time François Hollande was sworn in as president of France on 15 May 2012 he may well have suspected that, one year into his term, French troops would be on the ground in Mali. Like his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, he believed France should provide logistical and intelligence support if West African countries sent troops to tackle the jihadist groups that had taken over the Malian north. But that France’s own contingent would be almost 4,000 strong and committed to an aggressive combat role was probably not the most likely scenario envisaged by either man. The dramatic scale of the military intervention in the Sahel is a measure of Africa’s surge up the scale of priorities for French policy-makers and an indication of the complex challenges the continent still presents for France.
The French military intervention in January and February this year ended the occupation of northern Mali by rebel movements and jihadists. When I was in Bamako at the end of February, organisations across the political spectrum applauded France as Mali’s saviour and liberator. There had been a grave danger that the jihadists would seize Bamako, thereby seize the state, and turn the country into a fundamentalist political entity. A Muslim leader said to us: ‘France saved Mali, saved our way of life, saved Islam itself’.
Paris: Africa figures prominently in France's newly outlined military defense strategy - and experts say the Mali offensive may serve as a blueprint for future operations. Outlined by Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, the newly released review of France's national security and defense policy reflects the challenges of dealing with new military threats with less money.
Dakar: For the population of northern Mali, the feeling of being “liberated” by the French military intervention launched on 11 January 2013 is real. The sudden, but clearly well-prepared intervention, which received widespread support in Mali, West Africa and beyond, ended the offensive by jihadi groups that the Malian army had been unable to repel. France also took the opportunity to try and destroy al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) forces. Although Mali is in a better place than a few months back, sporadic fighting in the north continues and formidable threats to security, stability and the coexistence of the country’s various communities remain.
Kigali: Mali's Foreign Affairs minister Tieman Coulibaly has appealed to Rwanda to use her influence at the United Nations to push for a resolution that would put international troops helping Mali to restore peace under the direct command of the UN. A 10,000-strong international force, including around 4,000 French soldiers and 6,000 AFISMA troops is currently operating in Mali but the French are supposed to pull out of the mission next month, leaving the peace-keeping task in the hands of AFISMA. Minister Coulibaly, who was on a one-day working visit to Rwanda yesterday, held talks with Rwanda's Foreign Affairs minister, Louise Mushikiwabo, and conveyed his government's wish that the UN's Security Council adopt a resolution to turn the current African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) into a fully-fledged UN peace-keeping mission.