The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Thursday unanimously approved a French-drafted resolution authorizing an African-led military mission in Mali to recapture its northern regions being controlled by Islamist rebels since April.
The UNSC also gave an initial one-year mandate to the planned military mission. The council has authorized the intervention force to use "all necessary measures, in compliance with applicable international humanitarian law and human rights law," to help Mali retake its northern regions from "terrorist, extremist and armed groups."
The resolution was adopted after a compromise was reached between France and the United States, which had earlier objected to the draft document. Washington wanted the African intervention force to be initially authorized for training the Malian army and police before helping in recapturing the rebel-held region.
In addition to approving the military intervention mission, the resolution also authorized the European Union and other UN member states to help rebuild the Malian security forces. It also called on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to report on funding options for the planned military mission.
Incidentally, the UN chief has already declared support for a plan by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to send troops to Mali. But he recommended against direct UN funding for the mission, stressing that it should be funded using "voluntary or bilateral contributions."
Besides, Ban had warned in his latest report to the Council on Mali that the planned military intervention in northern Mali could have adverse affects on the local population if it was not well conceived and executed. He said such a mission could "also risk ruining any chance of a negotiated political solution to the crisis, which remains the best hope for achieving long-term stability in Mali."
Further, Jeffrey Feltman, Under Secretary-General for Political Affairs, had stressed in his briefing to the UNSC earlier this month that political means should be given priority over military options for resolving the ongoing crisis in Mali.
"A well-conceived and executed military intervention in the north should be conducted as a last resort in the north to address terrorist and criminal elements and planning should be undertaken for stabilization activities in recovered areas," he said, stressing that the UNSC should ensure that all operations conducted by the proposed force are well planned and implemented if it decides to approve its deployment in Mali.
Earlier, the ECOWAS said it had readied a 3,300-strong African intervention force, to be known as AFISMA, for deployment in Mali for ousting the armed rebels from its northern region. The deployment of such a force in Mali is not expected to take place before September 2013.
The West African bloc has also succeeded in convincing two rebel groups, namely the Islamist Ansar Dine and the Tuareg Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA), to open peace negotiations with Mali's government.
Mali had witnessed a coup in March, triggered by discontent among a large section of the military over the government's failure to address demands for better supplies and arms to tackle the Tuareg uprising in the North. The coup leaders later agreed to return power to a civilian interim government led by President Dioncounda Traore, following a deal with ECOWAS in exchange for lifting sanctions against the military junta.
Nevertheless, Mali's Tuareg rebels captured a large portion of northern Mali late March with the support of Ansar Dine and two other extremist Islamist groups, namely Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO).
The Islamists later fell out with the Tuareg rebels and consolidated their control over northern Mali. They have since established themselves in northern Mali and are currently enforcing Islamic law across the region. The conflict has forced more than 400,000 people to flee northern Mali.
by RTT Staff Writer
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