Africa Union to hold troops pledge conference for Mali

After an uneasy silence for three weeks, the AU prepares to get more troops inside Mali 

 Emnet Assefa


After what came as inexplicable silence by the African Union following the all widely anticipated French military attack against Islamist rebels in Mali some three weeks ago, the Peace and Security Department of the AU announced yesterday that it will hold a pledging conference for peace keeping process in Mali.

Director of peace and Security Department at the African Union, Wane El Ghassim said that the Union is doing its best to improve the peace process in Mali and will hold a pledging conference on the 29th of January, 2013.

In addition to the 2,000 French troops already on the ground and some 500 to join them soon, Chad and Nigeria have pledged to send 2,000 and 1, 200 troops respectively.  Senegal, Burkina Faso, Niger and Togo were expected to send 500 troops each, and Benin 650 with Guinea and Ghana to follow suit.

However, Mr. Ghassim says, “A number of African countries mainly in ECOWAS region made commitments to contribute troops but it may not go as fast as we want it to go because of some of the challenges faced.”

Attending the 20th AU summit here in Addis Ababa, the Malian Foreign Minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly looked deeply troubled as the AU finally says it is now preparing a troop pledging conference to rescue Mali from Al-Qaeda affiliated Islamist rebels.

Further pledges have already been made by Chad and Burundi under the auspices of the African Union. A news report quoting French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius reported that 1000 troops from West African countries and Chad had already arrived in Mali, which has been split in two after Islamist groups and secular Tuareg rebels controlled most of Northern Mali following a military coup in April 2012.  The UN has authorised the deployment of a 3300-strong force under the auspices of 15-nation West African countries ECOWAS. But the involvement of Chad, which has committed up to 2000 troops, means the force could now be much bigger according to AU’s report.

Although Mr. Ghassim said that about 3500 troops were expected to be deployed soon funding has been a challenge. He loosely estimated the costs of AU troop deployment based on its past peace keeping experiences to $300 million.

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