AU praises France's 'remarkable' Mali action

2013-01-17 09:41

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Bujumbura - African Union President Thomas Boni Yayi on Wednesday praised the "remarkable work" of the French military in Mali, saying its troops were "practically saving" Africa.

Boni Yayi, who is also the president of Benin, was speaking in Burundi's capital of Bujumbura after talks with his counterpart Pierre Nkurunziza during a brief stop on a tour of a dozen African countries.

"I believe France is doing a remarkable job in Mali and soon certain members of Ecowas [the Economic Community of West African States] will send troops" to support the war effort,” he said.

France "has sent more than a thousand soldiers who today are practically saving us," said the AU chairperson.

"Otherwise this terrorist threat would have increased to the detriment of an entire sub-region, an entire continent and the world," added Boni Yayi, whose country is a member of the regional bloc.

France has said it will swiftly increase the number of its troops in Mali to 2 500 men. On Wednesday it launched a ground offensive after six days of airstrikes.

Ecowas, meanwhile, is shaping a UN-mandated force of 3 300 soldiers to help fight against the Islamist rebels who have been occupying northern Mali since April last year.

According to Boni Yayi, the West African force's deployment has been delayed because "Malians did not speak with one voice, in Ecowas we were not speaking with one voice".

France intervened, he said, because "while we were trying to prepare, these terrorists decided to invade all of Mali" and "we were not ready to intervene".

The AU chief said he was very happy that the French had stepped in to help Mali.

During their talks, Nkurunziza and Boni Yayi discussed Burundi's willingness to send troops to Mali if the African force was extended beyond members of the Ecowas bloc.

Boni Yayi is set to meet with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in Kampala on Thursday.

- SAPA
Read more on:    ecowas  |  au  |  pierre nkurunziza  |  yoweri museveni  |  thomas boni yayi  |  mali  |  west africa
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