Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – African Union (AU) Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma thanked France for its intervention in former colony Mali,without which the capital Bamako would have fallen in the hands of rebels.
In an apparent turnaround from her usual anti-France stance, Dlamini-Zuma said the controversial intervention was “timely”.
“Of course, we are very grateful to France and the international community that have stood with Mali at this trying moment. The timely intervention in Mali helped arrest the southward advance of armed groups and is still weakening their capabilities.”
She was speaking before the AU’s Peace and Security Council, which met on Friday evening.
Dlamini-Zuma has previously been critical of France’s role on the African continent and believed her first bid for her current job in January last year failed because of French intervention.
She recently announced that the AU will review all its strategic partnerships and has said privately the AU should cut down its dependency on donor funding from European nations.
But the intervention in Mali seems to have softened her stance.
It is widely believed that if France did not intervene at the time it did in Mali, the region would have suffered.
A hostage drama in which hostages were killed, was an attempt by the rebels to avenge the French presence in Mali.
The French soldiers are in support of the weak Malian army and are supposed to be joined by forces from Chad and other West African nations.
The UN-sanctioned intervention was supposed to be African-led, but it’s not clear whether the African troops have joined their French colleagues on the battlefield yet.
Dlamini-Zuma also announced a pledging conference that will be held on Tuesday to solicit contributions from international partners and other nations for the Malian intervention.
Mali will be one of the key discussion points in the heads of state meeting that starts today.