UN faces major campaign in Mali

2013-02-06 07:52


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

New York - A UN peacekeeping mission that the major powers want for Mali will need several years to sort out the West African country's problems, diplomats and experts have warned.

On top of a feared guerrilla campaign by al-Qaeda linked militants, the UN troops who take over from a French-African force also face a major task reconciling the Bamako government with ethnic Tuaregs in northern Mali.

France is pursuing attacks against Islamist militants in the north while working on a UN Security Council resolution that would set up a peacekeeping force, UN diplomats said.

While detailed planning is underway, the force's size, makeup and mandate cannot be decided until France ends military strikes and decides its future military presence in the country, diplomats said.

French troops arrived on 10 January to halt a rebel surge toward the capital Bamako. With remnants of the Malian army, they have since retaken several towns in the north, including the shrine city of Timbuktu.

President Francois Hollande has said he wants to get French forces out quickly but will stay "as long as it takes". Hollande and US Vice President Joe Biden said this week they want a quick transition to a UN force.

The UN mission could get an initial mandate of 12 months, said one UN diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity because of ongoing negotiations.

"But clearly this cannot be sorted out in that time. There are major problems between the government and the Tuaregs, so the UN will be there for several years," the diplomat said.

Rebel strength

"It's going to take years to achieve the end outcome. But I hope it will only take months to achieve a secure enough environment," said a European Union official in Brussels. EU military trainers are expected to start arriving in Mali next week.

West African nations have already offered more than 7 000 troops to a force for Mali, which is only slowly gathering in Bamako.

Many could be used in the UN force, but Security Council talks so far have focused on a force of about 5 000, diplomats said.

If the 15-member Security Council holds a vote by the end of February, the UN estimates that it would take another 45-60 days to get the African force put under full UN command.

By that time the remaining rebel strength will be clearer but Mali will then be into its hot and rainy season.

Diplomats said France has yet to decide whether it will put troops in the UN force. It could also maintain a military presence in Mali alongside UN troops as it does in Ivory Coast, where they played a key role in ending unrest in 2011.

Mali's transitional government has opposed a UN force, questioning the mandate it will perform. But western diplomats say this resistance is "weakening".

Other African leaders have sought a joint African Union-United Nations force, as there is in Sudan's Darfur. But some UN officials and western diplomats say the Darfur force is a bureaucratic "nightmare" that should not be copied.

Strong political element

Security Council control of the force will allow the powers to put a maximum level on the force. "We need to improve the quality and reduce the numbers," said a second UN diplomat.

The United States and European nations have also insisted that any UN mission have a strong political element.

The Malian army has been accused of carrying out reprisal killings against Tuareg and Arab residents in northern towns it has retaken. It will also have to help the Malian government, still rocky after a military coup in March last year, to re-establish its authority.

"The United States has always had doubts about a purely West African force, and believes that a UN mission will be more sustainable and better prepared for long-term state-building activities," said Richard Gowan of the Center on International Co-operation at New York University.

The UN leader Ban Ki-moon "will insist that there should be a real political reconciliation process for the peacekeepers to support, as the alternative is an endless mission like that in Democratic Republic of Congo", he added.

Gowan said UN officials had concerns that the peacekeepers will become "soft targets for Islamist insurgents".

He said the UN will call for surveillance drones and many helicopters for the operation but is likely to be rebuffed as Western governments want to keep costs down.

Read more on:    un  |  tuaregs  |  al-qaeda  |  ban ki-moon  |  francois hollande  |  us  |  mali  |  france  |  west africa

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com 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
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


ANCYL: Not voting would be blasphemy

Not voting in the forthcoming elections would be blasphemy, the ANCYL says in a statement commemorating the 50th anniversary of struggle icon Nelson Mandela's Rivonia trial speech.


Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Huawei B683 21Mbps 3G Wireless Router

Huawei B683 21Mbps 3G Wireless Router The B683 wireless gateway (hereinafter...

From R1671.00

I'm shopping for:


There may be a break through, either through quiet contemplative time to connect to your deep side or forced on you by...read more

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 24.com 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.