Mali: Winning back north a top priority

2012-08-22 12:15
Local residents restoring the City of 333 Saints' Great Djingareyber Mosque in Timbuktu. (AFP, File)

Local residents restoring the City of 333 Saints' Great Djingareyber Mosque in Timbuktu. (AFP, File)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Bamako - Mali's new foreign minister said on Tuesday that winning back the Islamist-occupied north was the top priority of a unity government which was formed on orders from West African mediators.

"The priority is reconquest, the liberation of the north from dark forces currently occupying it," said Tieman Coulibaly, who was appointed as foreign minister on Monday, joining 12 other new cabinet members in the government shake-up.

He was speaking in an interview with French International Radio (RFI).

The new government, announced by presidential decree on Monday, saw six ministers booted out of their positions in an administration formed to take over from a military junta that took power in a March coup.

Once one of the region's most stable democracies, Mali has crumbled into despair since President Amadou Toumani Toure was overthrown by the military.

The ensuing political turmoil allowed al-Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels to wrest control of the vast desert north, an area larger than France or Texas, where they have enforced strict sharia law.

Controversial prime minister

The new government was formed after an order from Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) mediators. Embattled interim authorities stood by helplessly as the Islamists deepened their hold on the north.

Controversial Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra remains at the head of government despite calls for his resignation from much of Mali's political class who accused him of incompetence and having no plan to win back the north.

Interim President Dioncounda Traore in August declared his confidence in his prime minister, a renowned astrophysicist and former chairperson of Microsoft Africa.

It is hoped the more inclusive government will be able to come up with a solution to win back the north, including requesting the deployment of around 3 000 troops made available by Ecowas.

The national unity government is made up of 31 ministers of almost all political shades including four women.

It includes a new ministry of religious affairs, allies of the prime minister as well as retaining military members close to the former junta in their respective roles as defence, security and territorial administration ministers.

Plans unclear

According to a document seen by AFP on Tuesday and dated 15 August, Diarra has decided to hold a "national dialogue" on how the transition should be led.

He has created a committee of seven people with diverse political backgrounds to set up the talks on an as yet unknown date.

The plans of the government to tackle the Islamist occupation remain unclear.

The extremists seek an Islamic state, and have in recent weeks stoned an unmarried couple to death and cut off the hand of a thief, whipping smokers and drinkers and forcing women to cover up.

Security experts say the various armed Islamist groups are acting under the aegis of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), prompting fears the zone could become a haven for terrorists.

Fighters from Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) have also destroyed part of Timbuktu's cultural treasures, declaring the ancient Muslim shrines "haram" or forbidden in Islam.

Army needs training

Ecowas has presented Bamako with a plan to secure the transition regime and train up Malian soldiers before heading to the north. Bamako has rejected the offer to have regional soldiers secure government institutions.

"Regarding the military intervention, that is where there are difficulties, probably because the military objective as such has not been clearly defined," said Burkina Faso Foreign Minister and chief mediator in the crisis, Djibrill Bassole.

He said in an interview with RFI that Mali's army needs training, equipment and restructuring to be able to win back the north, as an eventual Ecowas force would only be acting "in support".

The new government also has to organise presidential elections.

Read more on:    ecowas  |  al-qaeda  |  dioncounda traore  |  cheick modibo diarra  |  amadou toumani toure  |  mali  |  west africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24


How to get rid of fleas

Before you call in the pricey exterminators, try this DIY approach that promises to get your flea problem under control.



12 Cool cat facts
Chocolate can be fatal for dogs
Spider-man star's adorable relationship with his dog
Do you know what you are feeding your dog?
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.