Senegal urges African leaders to tackle Al-Qaeda threat

2010-02-02 10:22

SENEGAL’S president urged African leaders yesterday to join forces

in the fight against Al-Qaeda’s North African branch, saying the network’s

campaign was taking on “new and disturbing” forms.

Abdoulaye Wade’s appeal came as African Union heads of state

gathered to tackle the continent’s crises and conflicts at the bloc’s 14th

summit.

“We must organise a round table with neighbouring countries to

resolve the issue” of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the veteran Wade

said in an interview on the sidelines of the summit in the Ethiopian capital,

Addis Ababa.

“This desert terrorism is taking new and very disturbing forms . .

. But countries like Senegal, or Mali, can do nothing on their own. It is an

international problem. Western powers will have to intervene too,” he

said.

The Senagalese leader also raised the alarm over arms trafficking

in the African Sahel region in the interview with AFP and Radio France

International, saying: “Western powers should also get involved,” without

elaborating.

The North African branch of Osama bin Laden’s terror network has

threatened to execute a French hostage kidnapped in Mali in November. The group

is also holding five other European hostages in the region.

Wade also said he hoped the military junta in Senegal’s neighbour

Guinea “will respect their pledge not to participate in elections” this year,

insisting an accord brokered by Burkina Faso “is just a beginning and we must

remain vigilant”.

He was speaking as African Union leaders tackle rising tensions in

oil-rich, secessionist southern Sudan and other African troublespots on the

penultimate day of their summit.

Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, who on the opening day had to

relinquish the 53-state body’s presidency to Malawi, warned Sudan could become

“another Somalia”.

Tension has been escalating in Sudan in the run-up to a 2011

referendum in which the south is widely expected to choose independence from

Khartoum, only six years after signing a peace deal.

Many observers fear that a secession in oil-rich Sudan – Africa’s

largest country, bordering nine others – could further destabilise one of the

continent’s most volatile regions.

“If the South has a right to separate itself then there’ll be

danger for the South,” Kadhafi told a press conference on Sunday, arguing that

secession could leave a weakened South vulnerable to outsiders who “covet” its

oil resources.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who attended the first day of the

summit, also put special emphasis on the fate of Sudan.

“The UN has a big responsibility with the AU to maintain peace in

Sudan and make unity attractive . . . This year will be crucially important for

Sudan with the election in three months and the referendum in a year,” he said

on Sunday.

“In the AU we believe that till the last minute we should work with

all the Sudanese stakeholders to be sure we promote peace in the country,” AU

Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra, told journalists.

He said the AU respected the will of the Sudanese people, but:

“Nevertheless, we are making sure that unity is attractive.”

But for Bona Malwal, a member of the Sudanese delegation and

ambassador to the AU, south Sudan is already on a path towards secession.

“It is already too late. We have asked this help for a long time.

But now the people of the south have made up their mind. They are in favour of

independence. Time is running out,” he told AFP.

“The international community can still be involved to help the two

parties to handle the aftermath of the referendum in a peaceful manner,” he

said.

“The Khartoum government will never stop the decision of the people

of the South.”

The African leaders were also to discuss the conflict in Somalia,

where the bloc’s embattled peacekeeping force came under fresh Islamist militia

attacks late on Sunday, claiming the lives of 12 civilians.


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