Regional leaders, concerned over continuing political instability in Mali and an insurgency that has seized areas in the country’s north, say the crisis there is an international security threat that needs an international response.
In a statement June 11, the Economic Community of West African States said it is preparing to petition the United Nations Security Council for a mandate to take military action if needed to restore security in its member state. Fighting in Northern Mali has forced thousands of Malians to flee their homes -- many into neighboring countries -– and extremist elements have set up operations and possible terrorist training camps in the North.
Rebel groups in the north have indicated their willingness to negotiate a solution. However, if negotiations fail to craft a settlement that restores stability to Mali, ECOWAS wants authorization to take actions ranging from imposing tough, targeted sanctions on members of the ex-junta to a military intervention force. If such a step is needed, ECOWAS said it would seek aid from the international community.
The United States stands by ECOWAS, the African Union and the international community in their commitment to restoring national unity in Mali. A lasting solution in the troubled north requires a credible, elected government in the capital, Bamako, and governance and security restored over the whole of Mali’s territory. In that government, all of Mali’s people should be represented.
The group of military officers who forced President Amadou Toumani Toure from office and took power said they did so to restore security in the country’s north. Their maneuvering and lack of progress in settling any of Mali’s crises -– the governance crisis in Bamako, the rebellion in the North, or the food crisis that is devastating parts of the country -- is now the main source of insecurity. If the military junta truly cares about their country’s future, they need to remove themselves from the political realm and allow the transition to proceed under civilian, democratic rule.
The United States is coordinating with ECOWAS, the AU, Mali’s neighbors and others in the international community to press for presidential elections and to take other steps to secure Mali’s territorial integrity.