Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - The ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council has recommended for adoption by regional leaders the report of the region's defence chiefs on the possible deployment of a regional force that will assist Mali to retake its northern territory from Tuareg rebels and their Islamist allies, and undertake peacekeeping and related operations.
The Council decided at an extra-ordinary meeting in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, Thursday that the regional force would be deployed if dialogue being brokered by the regional mediator, President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, fails.
The deployment of the force is part of a strategic approach being pursued by the region to end the rebellion by separatist groups in northern Mali, the ECOWAS Commission said in a statement obtained by PANA here.
The report of the ECOWAS defence chiefs, following their meeting on 5 April, specified the form and mandate of the force, the modalities for deployment, proposals for designating the force commander and the contribution of troops and logistics.
"ECOWAS shall take all necessary measures to end the rebellion and maintain the unity and territorial integrity of Mali, including the use of force," the Council, which comprises Ministers of Foreign Affairs, said at the expanded meeting which was also attended by Ministers of
The ministers insisted that the rebels, who declared independence for the 'State of Azawad' in the northern region last week, must withdraw from all occupied territories as a precondition for negotiations.
The European Union, France and the United States have already indicated their willingness to support ECOWAS’ effort to end the rebellion and preserve Mali’s territorial integrity particularly against the backdrop of the reported infiltration by terrorists, the Commission said.
The Council, which operates at three levels, including Ambassadorial and Heads of State and Government, has responsibility for issues of regional peace and security within West Africa's security architecture.
To address the anticipated humanitarian consequences of the crisis in northern Mali on the Sahel region, the ministers directed the transfer of the US$3 million approved by regional leaders to the legitimate government of Mali and another US$1.5 million to the neighbouring countries of Burkina Faso and Niger.
The ministers also agreed to dispatch a military contingent to Guinea Bissau to replace the departing Angolan Mission towards ensuring the effective implementation of the regional road map for the country's defence and security sector reform programme; secure persons during the scheduled 29 April presidential run-off election and ensure the sanctity of the electoral process.
The Council further agreed on the dispatch of a mixed civilian/military delegation to the Guinea Bissau, under the auspices of the regional mediator, to meet with the key stakeholders within the political class and the military to douse the political tension arising from the country’s inconclusive first round presidential election of 18 March 2012.
The mixed delegation will include officials of the ECOWAS Commission, as well as Chiefs of Defence Staff and political officers from Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea and Nigeria.
The ministers also used the opportunity to reaffirm their confidence in President Alpha Conde of Guinea as the regional mediator for the crisis in Guinea Bissau, and called on all citizens of Guinea Bissau to give him their maximum support.
The country is reeling under post-electoral disputes resulting in the paralysis of government, with several opposition candidates threatening to boycott the run-off poll, amid fears among politicians for their safety. The election followed the death of President Bacai Sanha on 9 January 2012.
The expanded meeting of the Mediation and Security Council was attended by representatives of Algeria, France, the European Union, Mauritania and the United States.
The Council meeting took place before the attempted coup by the military in Guinea-Bissau.
ECOWAS has strongly condemned the coup attempt and demanded the immediate restoration of constitutional order to allow the completion of ongoing electoral process in the country.
-0- PANA SEG 13April2012