The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) are considering military intervention in Mali amid growing fears that this african country is about to become a “rogue and stateless” country.
The ECOWAS is a regional group of fifteen african countries, founded in 1975, and its mission is to promote economic integration.
Up to 5,000 troops from the Ecowas could be deployed in the coming days to combat Islamic extremists linked to the terrorist group Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim). Fighting between Islamist factions and government troops has threatened to plunge Mali into chaos and undermine the security of the entire West African subregion.
“Deployment of troops in Mali is imminent,” said Abdel-Fatau Musah, Ecowas director for external relations. “We are very concerned about what is happening in northern Mali, particularly with the carnage and killing, and barbaric acts that are going on in Timbuktu, and the destruction of heritage sites.
“We are preparing to deploy between 3,000 and 5,000 troops to fight against these terrorists,” Musah added. “The problem is that we are going to have to engage in urban warfare because they have occupied the major centres of northern cities, they are not wearing uniforms, it is going to be very difficult to separate them from the locals.”
The news follows months of fighting between Mali’s national army, secular Tuareg separatist rebels in the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), and extremist groups. The Tuareg rebellion in the north – one of the causes of the military coup that toppled Mali’s civilian government in March – has become increasingly fractured, with the MNLA pitted against Aqim and Ansar Dine, factions that seek to impose Sharia law in Mali.
The ECOWAS Contact Group on the Mali crisis has called for a government of national unity to implement the road map for a peaceful end to the crisis in the country through the restoration of the territorial integrity of Mali and the organization of fair, transparent and credible presidential election at the end of ongoing 12-month transitional period. In a Communiqué at the end of their 2nd Meeting in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on Saturday, 7th July 2012, the Heads of State of the Seven-nation Contact Group urged stakeholders in Mali, including political leaders and Civil Society to hold consultations and make proposals to the interim President Dioncounda Traore for the formation of the government of national unity before the end of July 2012. The interim President, Prime Minister and members of the current Transitional Government shall not be candidates in the presidential elections to be organized by the national unity government, the Contact Group said.
Residents in northern Mali have long been calling for an Ecowas intervention. But this week, the UN security council stopped short of backing the planned military action, although it condemned the destruction of ancient shrines in the historic city of Timbuktu, saying it could constitute a war crime, a move that follows a similar statement by the new chief prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda.Concerns about the escalating security crisis in Mali come amid criticism of the Bamako-based transitional government, intended to steer the country back to civilian rule after a military coup in March.
The capital has witnessed numerous demonstrations since the coup, including protests against the government and calls from northerners to give them arms to fight against Islamist occupation.