Mali “Donors” Conference to be held in Addis Ababa

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Ethiopia is to host a donors’ conference to help the West African nation of Mali overcome the current turmoil it is in, on January 29 2013, at the African Union Commission (AUC) in Addis Ababa.
The gathering, which is expected to see major donors and partners from around the world, will discuss aiding the ongoing military operation against Islamist rebels as well as the deployment of African troops to fight the insurgency and to keep the peace.
Nebiyu Tedla, Minister Counsellor of the office of the spokesperson at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), said that the Malian army has been found to lack long-term offensive skills against international terrorists and the meeting will discuss on how best to build its capacity.
The meeting is expected to be attended by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius as well as senior officials from the European Union (EU), United States, China, Russia and other African countries.
It’s also expected to outline further plans to help secure the borders of Mali, as well as discuss ways of pacifying the Sahel and Sahara regions, as per the recent resolution of the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS). USD 340 million to be pledged
Media reports coming out of Europe suggest that the conference aims to raise up to USD 340 million to help build Mali’s state infrastructure and capacity as well as to fight Islamist insurgents.
The funds are expected to be used to financially and logistically beef up the Malian defence and security forces, as well as the African troops that are to be deployed, and help stabilize the country economically.
Wane El Ghassim, Director of the peace and security Department of the African Union (AU), said funding has been a big issue for its peacekeeping mission in the country.
Although he said that about 3500 troops were expected to be deployed soon funding has been a challenge, with him  loosely estimating the costs of AU troop deployment based on its past peace keeping experiences to  reach USD 300 million.
He also said the AU is yet to devise a permanent predictable guaranteed funding mechanism otherwise it will continue facing the same problems in the years ahead.
However, the AU declined to give a specific time-frame, as to when African troop deployment will take place.  
“We recently had a meeting in Addis that brought together the AU and  ECOWAS on how best to expedite the African Led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA),” El Ghassim said, adding that countries like Chad and Burundi, which aren’t from the west African region have pledged to contribute troops to the mission.
In parallel, the AU is trying to resolve issues of logistics in addition to funding, with various multilateral and bilateral partners.
The AU has also made commitments and taken a number of steps through its Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) to make peace in Mali, and by extension the Sahel region, of which it is a part. These include focusing on developmental and environmental challenges while also appointing ex-Burundian president Pierre Buyoya last year, as special envoy to the Sahel region.
On December 20, 2012, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) had authorized a peacekeeping mission for Mali, after a similar endorsement by AUPSC the month before.
El Ghassim said the decision to deploy the African peacekeeping mission to Mali was taken some time back, but the slow progress in this regard led Malian authorities to ask for support from French forces.
The French troops launched “Operation Serval” on January 11 with the stated aim of halting the advance of Islamist forces, which control much of northern Mali, to the south.
It has subsequently turned into an operation to rid the whole country of Islamist and jihadist groups, with the help of African troops, and logistical support from the West.
In January 2012, Mali was rocked by an armed rebellion initially led by a group expressly championing the interests of the nomadic Saharan ethnic group, the Tuaregs.
The group named Movement for the National Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which has stated that it has plans to create a separate state in northern Mali, subsequently took advantage of a coup d’état in Bamako to take over the whole of northerly Mali.
Azawad is a name given by ethnic Tuaregs to their expressed homeland which encompasses most of the desert regions of West and North African nations.  It includes southern Algeria and Libya and northern Mali and Niger.
However, it was soon displaced by a myriad of local and region-based Islamist and jihadist groups, which earlier this month, tried to advance to government controlled southern Mali.
Currently there are 2,000 French troops already on the ground in Mali with an additional 500 troops expected to join them soon to fight the Islamist insurgents.  
Chad and Nigeria have pledged to send 2,000 and 1, 200 troops respectively with Benin at 650 while four other west African nations have pledged to send 500 troops each,  with Guinea and Ghana to follow suit.
Some media reports have even quoted French FM as saying that 1000 troops from West African countries and Chad had already arrived in Mali,