West African leaders “endorsed the main recommendations” of a plan to intervene militarily in Mali, and will commit 3,300 troops to help retake that country’s northern region, which has been occupied by rebel groups since April, according to a statement.
The Economic Community of West African States “reiterates that dialogue remains the preferred option in the resolution of the political crisis in Mali,” the group said in a statement issued today at the end of a summit in Abuja, the Nigerian capital. “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.”
Troops will come from Nigeria, Burkina Faso and the Republic of Niger, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, who is chairman of the 15-member Ecowas, told reporters today. Other West African countries and two or three non-African nations may also send troops, he said.
Ecowas defense and foreign ministers met behind closed doors on Nov. 9 in Abuja where they harmonized proposals on troop deployment that were prepared with Mali in consultation with experts from the African Union, the United Nations and other international partners.
The group adopted the planned troop deployment and asked the African Union to endorse the plan, according to the statement. Ecowas “urges the UN Security Council to examine the concept with a view to authorizing the deployment of the international military force in Mali in conformity with chapter VII of the UN Chapter.”
The military in Mali, which vies with Tanzania as Africa’s third-biggest gold producer, led a coup in March that ousted President Amadou Toure and left a power vacuum in Bamako, Mali’s capital, that allowed ethnic Touareg rebels to take control of the north, aided by Islamist groups including Ansar ud-Din and al-Qaeda’s African branch.
African nations along with the U.S. and France have been discussing an intervention plan to oust the rebels, who are carrying out executions, amputations and floggings in their bid to enforce strict Islamic law, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch. The African Union and the UN Security Council must approve the plan.
Mali must wage war to expel Islamist-backed rebel forces occupying its northern region, the West African nation’s Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra said yesterday.