The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has agreed on a revised concept of operations for the deployment of an international military force of 3,300 soldiers to help the Malian state wrest control of the northern part of the country from Islamist fighters.
By Gilles Yabi as published by our top partner allAfrica
This step, taken on November 11 following a collective effort by regional and international partners, is welcome. But military intervention alone cannot solve the country's deep crisis.
The situation in Mali is desperately fractious. A military coup toppled the government in March, while separatists and al-Qaeda-linked fundamentalists took over the northern half of the country. Mali is now divided geographically, politically, militarily and religiously.
The need for international intervention, with precisely identified objectives, is clear. The next step will be a resolution at the United Nations Security Council, expected by the end of this month, giving authorisation to the new mission. However, getting boots on the ground will take far longer. The restructuring and training of Malian units by a separate mission conducted by the European Union will also take some time.
In the meantime, a political process is vital.
It is necessary to make sure that the various communities of Mali truly agree on which groups should be targeted by the use of force. Some of the groups controlling the northern part of the country are clearly beyond the pale – they are terrorist groups, and they are not interested in coming to the negotiation table.
However, the situation in Mali should not be looked at solely through the lens of anti-terrorism. It is critical to isolate extremist outfits from other armed and non-armed groups in northern Mali whose grievances could be discussed within a formal framework for national dialogue.
In this regard, Algeria's recent involvement as a facilitator for preliminary talks with one of the groups, Ansar Dine, is quite positive.
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