AFISMA troops in Mali - Some 70 per cent of troops pledged to the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) have been deployed in the country through the efforts and solidarity of the troops contributing countries, the Foreign Minister of Côte d'Ivoire, Mr Charles Koffi Diby, said on Monday.
Opening an extraordinary meeting of the Mediation and Security Council of ECOWAS Ministers in charge of foreign affairs and defence, in Abidjan the minister said the priority now was to expedite the deployment of the force to progressively take over from the 3,500 French forces who spearheaded the effort to flush out terrorists occupying the north of Mali.
The minister, who is chair of the Council, also spoke about the need to protect Mali's Tuareg population from reprisals by elements who accuse them of affiliation with Islamists who briefly occupied the north of the country and terrorized the local population, adding that it was also important to prevent northern Mali from becoming a sanctuary for terrorists.
Mr Diby described the 29 January 2013 adoption of a road map by Mali's National Assembly for return to constitutional government as a landmark development in the country's political evolution to normalcy.
The President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr Kadré Désiré Ouédraogo, warned against complacency in the wake of the recovery of major towns previously occupied by the terrorists.
'We must not rest on our oars in the light of this positive development as the Council seeks to confront the multifarious challenges that require appropriate responses,' he said.
'Indeed, the many issues we must turn our attention to are the definitive stability and security of the recovered areas, the long term conditions for maintaining the troops in the field, respect for international humanitarian law and human rights as well as preparing the concept of operations based on the realities on the ground,' Mr Ouédraogo said.
With the recovery of previously occupied territory in the north of Mali, he said, ECOWAS was now on the verge of a consolidation phase which was vital 'if we must contain the risks of a somewhat unbalanced war and thus safeguard the sustainability and credibility of our action'.
In this regard, he said, the support of the UN and international community was vital, not only in the prompt release of funds to AFISMA, but also 'in view of the need to increase resources and ensure the embrace of operations by the United Nations'.
The one-day extraordinary meeting was convened to discuss the evolving situations in Mali and Guinea-Bissau and proposals for addressing them.