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Ecowas urges members to send troops to Mali

23 October 2013, 16:57

Dakar - The president of west African bloc Ecowas urged member states and other countries on Wednesday to send troops to bolster the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali following a surge in Islamist attacks.

Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, speaking two days ahead of a summit in Dakar on the region's economy and recent political crises, called for a positive response to a UN appeal in New York last week for troop reinforcements and much-needed equipment.

He recognised that troops from Ecowas nations and Chad had already been in Mali for nine months, as part of the AFISMA African force fighting an Islamist insurgency and then as members of the peacekeeping mission which absorbed it.

But he told a news conference: "We know we have to get from 6 000 [peacekeepers] currently to 12 600 by the end of the year."

French troops entered Mali in January to halt an advance on the capital Bamako by al-Qaeda-linked groups and allied Tuareg rebels. It plans to reduce its presence from 3 000 troops today to 1 000 by the end of January 2014.

Meanwhile militants have remained active in the vast desert north, carrying out deadly attacks in Timbuktu and Gao in recent weeks and sparking alarm ahead of legislative elections planned for 24 November.

The UN special representative to Mali Bert Koenders said last week recent attacks in the north of the country had been "an important wake-up call" over security.

Caretaker regime

Koenders told the UN Security Council that the international force needed helicopters and troops as it builds up to replace the French force.

"Troop generation will have to accelerate," Koenders said in a report on the work of the UN's Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States has said the economy will top the agenda for Friday's summit but leaders will also call for calm in Guinea, where the opposition has said it will take claims of election fraud to the country's Supreme Court.

Guinea-Bissau, where Ecowas also has troops, is another source of concern for the west African leaders.

After a military coup in 2012, a caretaker regime is due to hold presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 November.

"The transition in Guinea-Bissau must be completed by December 31 of this year at the latest," Ouedraogo said, adding that Ecowas was planning to contribute $18m to the country's election fund.



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