Bamako, Mali (PANA) - A powerful ECOWAS Commission delegation, led by new President Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, arrived here Thursday to explore the possibility of engaging with the government and the rebels to end the fighting in northern Mali that has left many dead and sent thousands fleeing to other countries, PANA reported Friday.
While in Mali, the delegation, which also includes the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Mrs Salamatu Husseini Suleiman, will meet with the parties to nudge them to embrace peace and end the clashes that have forced 195,000 to flee their homes, according to UN figures.
The clashes started mid-January, when Tuareg rebels, many of them returning from Libya where they fought on the side of the Kadhafi regime, launched a massive offensive to back up their long-standing demand for autonomy in northern Mali.
The rebels have since attacked several towns in the region and forced many to flee to neighbouring countries, including Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso
Last month, ECOWAS also sent a humanitarian mission to Mali to assess the situation in the country in the aftermath of the outbreak of the rebellion.
Following the mission, the ECOWAS Mediation and Security Council has approved the release of US$3 million by the ECOWAS Commission to provide humanitarian assistance to victims of food crisis and rebel attacks in the Sahel-Sahara region of West Africa.
The ECOWAS Commission President is due to return to the region next week to hand over the money.
-0- PANA SEG 16Mar2012