The African Union, Chairman, President Thomas Yayi Boni of Benin has announced that preparations are underway for the organisation to send a peace-keeping force to Mali with the backing of the United Nations. Speaking yesterday May at the end of a State visit to France, Yayi Boni said the ongoing dialogue in Mali was good but could not be allowed to drag on forever.
He explained that the final details of the force were yet to be worked out, saying it could take the form of the AU peacekeeping force, AMISON in Somalia. He announced that French President François Hollande had expressed his country’s backing for the force, provided it was approved by the United Nations Security Council.
While lauding the efforts of the mediator, President Blaise Compaore and the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS Chairman, President Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire in restoring peace to Mali, the AU Chairman said the priorities for now were strengthening constitutional rule, restoring Mali’s territorial integrity and ensuring religious tolerance by rejecting the declaration of Islamic Shariah law in the north. Agreeing that Africans are people of dialogue, the Beninois leader warned that talks could not be allowed to continue without any end in sight while the secular nature of the Malian State was at stake.
He warned that the situation in Mali should not be allowed to become like that in Afghanistan with Arab terrorists everywhere, adding that the free flow of heavy and light weapons, and drugs was dangerous to the whole sub-region. He described the behaviour of the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, (MNLA), Ansar Dine and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, (AQMI) rebels in the north as intolerable, saying they were terrorists.
Interim President Dioncounda Traore and Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra must be allowed to conclude their tenure unhindered and the former military junta must return to the barracks, he said. President Boni pointed out the need for Africa to propose a solution to the Malian crisis before seeking logistic and other forms of support from the UN and international community.
Asked if he was not afraid of the veto of Russia and China at the UN Security Council to block a vote sanctioning such a force, he said he did not think so as the crisis in Mali has to do with territorial integrity, coupled with the risk of spread of terrorism.