Addis Ababa, Ethiopia - Africa's top military experts have endorsed a revised military concept for Mali, paving the way for the deployment of 8,000 troops and authorising the inclusion of a wider civilian unit.
The military experts, who kicked off a week-long planning meeting in Bamako, last Saturday, to discuss the troop increment to the African-led International Force in Mali (AFISMA), also agreed to include a humanitarian unit to the original concept of operations in Mali.
'The AFISMA Revised Joint Concept of Operations (CONOPs) has been integrated to include a more robust military component, as well as substantial police and civilian components,' an AU statement said late Friday.
The beefed-up civilian unit would include human rights staff, humanitarian affairs, gender and a public information unit.
The latest efforts to deal with the crisis were accelerated amid a change of tact by northern Mali rebels fighting government troops and international force led by France since last month.
Working against odds to avert a vacuum that could befall the region should the French troops in the region begin their pullout, the Bamako planning conference discussed the troop levels and the aid crisis there.
The meeting was attended by military officials serving within the AU Commission, the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) and the UN.
The AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) and the UN Security Council, have called for an increment in the troop levels in Mali.
Former President of Burundi, Pierre Buyoya, heads AFISMA. He was represented at the meeting by Major General J.M. Mokoko, who said a revised plan was necessary due to the recent changes on the ground.
The Tuareg rebels have lately employed suicide attacks and there have been fears that a delay in boosting the troops could lead to the rebels entrenching their controls in areas they occupied earlier.
“This multifaceted crisis in Mali constitutes a serious violation of core principles of the AU, namely, respect for the territorial integrity of the AU Member States and the AU’s total rejection of any recourse to armed insurrection as a means of achieving political objectives and the unconstitutional change of governments,” Mokoko told the meeting.
The planning meeting is expected to come up with a figure on how the troops would be generated from African countries.
Most West African countries promised troops to AFISMA during a donor-pledging conference in Addis Ababa, where US$455 million was pledged to finance the military operation.
The AU and the European Union (EU) pledged US$50 million and 50 million euros respectively with several other countries making pledges to resume bilateral funding based on political progress on the ground in Mali, notably, the process of restoring civilian rule after a military coup in early 2012.
Meanwhile, meeting welcomed an announcement by the Malian government that it would help to identify 340,000 refugees displaced to neighbouring countries.
The planning meeting also called for a joint action plan by the military forces on the ground in Mali.