AU urges approval to send troops to Congo, Mali


The African Union says it is working to send troops to retake northern Mali occupied by radical Islamists and demilitarize Eastern Congo where government troops and rebels have been fiercely fighting in recent weeks.
The United Nations Security Council is however hesitating to approve the request, frustrating the AU officials who see urgent need for military interventions to end the two countries’ unfolding crisis.
Backing embattled UN troops in Congo
The AU on Monday announced that it is working for the deployment of ‘a neutral international force’ in the troubled Eastern Congo region.
The regional bloc Southern African Development Community has already pledged to contribute 4,000 troops for the mission. After meeting behind closed doors on Monday, the AU peace and security council requested the chairperson of the AU commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, ‘to take the necessary steps’ to facilitate consultations involving regional blocs, the European Union, the United Nations and other partners ‘to facilitate the mobilization of the required support towards the establishment and deployment’ of the neutral force.
The statement also said the Congolese government has decided to contribute 20 million dollars ‘to facilitate the early operationalization’ of the neutral force.
The force’s total budget and size is yet to be set.
The rebels dubbed M23, short for March 23 Movement, launched a military campaign few months ago, putting the country on a brink of an all-out war as they threatened to topple Kinshasa based government.
After the international community scrambled to stop the fighting, the two sides were brought to a round table for negotiations.
However, with the rebels listing the resignation of President Joseph Kabila among their demands, talks are already flattering, threatening to restart the conflict.
The Peace and Security Council of the AU said the envisaged African-led force would be supporting United Nations troops deployed there. This comes as United Nations forces are being criticized for standing aside when M23 rebels recently took control Congo’s major city Goma.
The UN itself on Thursday launched a scrutiny into its mission. Analysts say the UN mission, a largest peacekeeping force, could have done little in the face of overwhelming M23 rebels’ capacity. The rebels are reportedly backed by neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. Coup d’état in Mali, again!
Increasingly stable Africa still suffers from a handful coups’ and the AU says Mali’s unfolding crisis, which was first started when soldiers deposed the country’s civilian government, could spread to neighboring countries.
Shortly after the coup, Northern Mali fall under the hands of militants affiliated with al-Qaida’s branch in North Africa.
Mutinous soldiers, in the face fierce international pressure and regional blocks’ threat of military campaign, handed over power to an interim civilian government.
The AU is currently putting together a military operational plan to send troops to free Northern Malian territories. Backing AU’s plan, Economic Community of West African States said it has 3,300 troops ready for the mission.
Members of the UN Security Council are however wary of the plans and still hesitate to provide funding for it.
Further daunting the efforts, soldiers behind the coup earlier this week arrested and forced the country’s interim prime minister to resign.
As a new Prime Minister took office on Thursday, the AU says the international community needs to be ‘forward looking’.
“As much as we strongly condemn the conditions under which the prime minister was compelled to resign, we also believe that we need to be forward looking and support the new prime minister and assist him and the authority in precisely establishing and ensuring absolute civilian oversight over the military,” El Ghassim Wane, a senior official of the AU peace and security council, told reporters late Thursday.
After a meeting on Thursday, the council said there is ‘a need for renewed effort’ to solve the crisis in Mali.
The council urged the UN to authorize a military operation against militants and rebels currently controlling about half of Mali.
“The council reiterated its request for the Security Council to authorize the deployment that envisaged operation and to provide funding and support the Malian army and support the political efforts being made by the AU,” Wane said. He also called on the Malian military to stop interfering in the political process and for the interim government to ‘urgently convene a national consultation’ to ensure smooth transition to an inclusive civilian government.