France to support Ecowas troops in Mali, Guinea Bissau
France has welcomed plans by West African leaders to send troops to Mali and Guinea Bissau. The French foreign minister Alain Juppé has pledged France’s “logistical, material and intelligence” support.
The 15-members of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) met in Côte d’Ivoire this week to decide how to restore democracy in Mali and Guinea Bissau. Both countries have experienced military coups in the past few weeks.
"It was a very good decision," said Juppé. However he stopped short of sending troops to the region, "there is no question of us deploying on the ground,” he said.
The concern among Ecowas leaders is that terrorism and criminality will spread throughout the region unless action is taken. Tuareg separatists and Al Qaeda now control parts of northern Mali following a military coup on 22 March.
In Guinea Bissau the army ceased power on 12 April arresting the interim president, Raimundo Pereira. Over the past decades the country has become a hub for the global cocaine trade.
“The safety of Europe and of the United States now starts in the Sahel and the Gulf of Guinea,” said Alassane Outtara the president of Côte d’Ivoire.
Troops will be sent to Mali to help with the transition back to democracy, but they will not fight in the north.
This comes as it emerged this week that a new rebel group, National Liberation Front of Azawad has taken control of the northern city of Timbuktu from the Islamists Ansar Dine.
Ecowas also stressed that Amadou Toumani Toure, Mali’s deposed leader, has the right to return to Mali from exile in Senegal.
Guinea Bissau has been given 72 hours to accept Ecowas’ decision to deploy troops or face diplomatic and economic sanctions.
Nigeria, Togo, Côte d'Ivoire and Senegal have pledge to sent between 500 and 600 troops to Guinea Bissau.