News24

Ecowas wants jets to tackle Mali Islamists

2012-09-18 09:25

New York - West African nations need fighter jets and other international military support to beat the Islamists who seized northern Mali, an African envoy told the UN Security Council on Monday.

But the UN Council gave no immediate sign it would give the backing for the intervention force that West African nations say they want to send to Mali.

There is growing international concern over the al-Qaeda-linked Islamists who seized control of northern Mali after a military coup in March unleashed chaos in the country.

The Islamists imposed harsh Sharia law in the territory and desecrated the shrines of Muslim saints in acts that have drawn international condemnation.

The United Nations has warned the region could become a "safe haven" for terrorists, but the national government - based in southern Mali - has proved unable to respond to the rebellion in the north.

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) has proposed sending a 3 300 strong intervention force to Mali to support the interim government and eventually to re-conquer the rebel-held areas.

But Mali's the shaky transitional government has given only partial approval to a three-phase Ecowas plan to bolster Mali's military and government before a joint campaign against the Islamists.

Youssoufou Bamba, Ivory Coast's ambassador to the UN, speaking for Ecowas, told the Security Council the military campaign "requires a lot of combat assets, including fighter jets, for the conduct of the operations".

More details

He said the jets and other support, including financing, should come from African nations and other international powers.

Bamba said the Ecowas proposals faced "fierce resistance" from former junta members who still influence the transitional government even though they were meant to have withdrawn from politics.

The envoy said the divisions in Mali "risks diminishing the chances" of forming the intervention force.

The UN Security Council has so far held back from giving approval for the intervention force.

It has called for more details from the West African bloc on the aims and means of the force, and it wants an explicit agreement from the Mali government for the military intervention.

French President Francois Hollande is to be a keynote speaker at a mini-summit on the crisis in Mali and surrounding countries on September 26, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.