Yamoussoukro, Cote d'Ivoire (PANA) - The West African regional bloc ECOWAS has decided to fast-track the deployment of over 3,000 troops to Mali to help safeguard the country's political transition and restore its territorial integrity.
The decision to fast-track the long-delayed deployment was taken at the 28-29 June summit of ECOWAS leaders in the Ivorian capital, Yamoussoukro.
The leaders decided to immediately dispatch a Technical Assessment Mission to Mali to liaise with the Transitional Authority, with a view to preparing the ground for the imminent arrival of the ECOWAS Standby Force Mission in Mali (MICEMA).
PANA reports that ECOWAS is seeking the approval of the UN Security Council to deploy the mission under Chapter of the UN Charter, which allows for sanctions, including economic measures and an arms embargo, as well as military force, to maintain peace.
The UN Security Council has asked for detailed information on the planned deployment before giving its authorisation, but the leaders urged the Council to speed up the approval process, in view of the worsening security and humanitarian situation in the northern part of the country, held by rebels and Islamists.
On Mali's 12-month political transition, ECOWAS leaders decided to ''automatically trigger the imposition of the targeted and general sanctions already established on individuals or groups who obstruct the implementation of ECOWAS decisions''.
''To this end, Authority directs the Commission to pursue the compilation of the list of offenders, in cooperation with the AU and UN,'' they said in a communique issued at the end of the summit.
The leaders condemned ''the attempts by certain fringe political and social forces in Mali to obstruct the smooth execution of the on-going political transition'', as well as the incitement to disobedience and violence by sections of the military, political class and the partisan media.
Mali has been in crisis since January, when Tuareg rebels and Islamists launched a battle against the central government that culminated in the take-over of the north, especially after a March military coup that toppled the country's democratically-elected government.
On Guinea-Bissau, the leaders decided to suspend the general sanctions imposed on the country, in the wake of the military-led truncation of its democratic process in April.
''Authority urges all the political actors and civil society to work together to achieve a truly inclusive government in order to ensure a consensual transition. To this end, Authority encourages the Interim President and Prime Minister to intensify their efforts aimed at securing the full participation of all the internal stakeholders in the tasks of carrying out urgent reforms and conducting a Presidential election in the course of the transition,'' they said.
The Yamoussoukro summit was attended by Presidents Thomas Boni Yayi of Benin; Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso; Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire; Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia; Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger; Macky Sall of Senegal; Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone; Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe of Togo, as well as Interim President Manuel Serifo Nhamajo of Guinea Bissau and Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra of the Transitional Government of Mali.
Other member countries were represented by ministers.
-0- PANA SEG 2July2012