Ecowas ready to send troops to Mali against breakaway Tuareg state
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Mali’s west African neighbours are threatening to send a military force to the north of the country after the military junta in Bamako agreed to return the country to civilian rule Friday.
An Ecowas communiqué warned armed groups in the north that Mali is “one and indivisible” and that it “shall take all necessary measures, including the use of force, to ensure the territorial integrity of the country”.
The regional grouping “will never recognise” any breakaway state, the statement said.
Politicians in Bamako unanimously condemned the Tuareg separatist MNLA’s declaration of an independent “Azawad”, as did France on Friday.
Junta leader Amadou Sanogo called on people in the region to “resist” and Rassemblement pour le Mali leader Ibrahim Boubacar Keita predicted that the country “will very soon reconquer the whole of its territory, including by force”.
Several hundred young people demonstrated in Bamako Friday demanding arms to go and fight in the north.
On its website the MNLA slammed “certain Mafia milieux encouraged by Bamako” who “only speak for themselves” and claimed that the majority of the Arab population of the region support its declaration of independence.
Algeria’s Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia told Le Monde newspaper that his country would “never accept a challenge to Mali’s territorial integrity” but opposed a foreign intervention.
Omar Hamaha, the military chief of the Islamist Ansar Dine movement, which reportedly controls Timbuktu and has kidnapped Algerian diplomats in Gao, has declared that his movement is waging war “against independence” and “for Islam”.
The MNLA’s representative in France, Mossa Ag Attaher, says that the movement is ready to fight Islamist groups as part of “an international partnership”.
Coup leader Amadou Sanago on Friday signed a deal with Ecowas, represented by Burkina Faso Foreign Affairs Minister Djibril Bassolè, that agreed that power would be handed over to the speaker of parliament, acting as interim president, a prime minister and a transitional government.
The current speaker of the national assembly is Dioncounda Traoré, who was reported to be abroad on Friday.
The agreement also promised an amnesty for the putschists and guaranteed that deposed president Amadou Toumani Touré the right to live where he wishes under military protection.
Current Ecowas president Côte d’Ivoire’s Alassane Ouattara called for the immediate ending of sanctions against Mali.
The north of Mali is “on the brink of humanitarian disaster” due to drought, violence and serious human rights violations, according to Amnesty International.
About 210,000 people have been displaced since the latest phase of the rebellion started in mid-January.