China, India contribute way below expectation
A pledging conference held for Mali on January 29 in Addis Ababa, collected less than half of the 960 million USD needed to help combat the Islamist insurgency and stabilize the West African nation.
The conference which had brought together participants from more than 50 countries sought to financially support the African Led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) and the Malian Defence and Security Forces (MDSF).
Resolution 2085 was adopted by the United Nations Security Council on the 20th of December, 2012 thereby creating AFISMA.
A multifaceted strategy on Mali proposed by the Economic Commission for West African Nations (ECOWAS) helped pass the resolution through the Security Council after its endorsement from both the United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU)
The resolution also provides for the establishment of a trust fund established in collaboration with AU and ECOWAS, to which member states could contribute.
Over USD 455 million pledged
Nonetheless, the pledging conference saw vast disparities in terms of fund contribution with global heavyweights such as China and India contributing just USD 1 million each, disappointing the conference. Sierra Leone also pledged USD 1 million.
The conference largest financial contributor was Japan with USD 120 million pledged leading the total of the pledged amount to reach about USD 455 million. Japan said its contribution is part of its desire to help with the collective needs of the international community to resolve this complex problem.
The United States also pledged substantial financial contribution to the conference promising to give USD 96 million, pending congressional approval.
Assistant Secretary of State Johnny Carson said that defeating Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) also requires addressing the grievances of the people of Northern Mali.
He also said there should be no retribution, violation of human rights or international law in areas that have been re-conquered, a reference to reports of retaliation on those considered sympathizers and collaborators with the Islamic fighters.
However, not all pledges were from European and African nations, with the Kingdom of Bahrain pledging a total of USD 10 million for AFISMA and MDSF.
UK to contribute 240 troops for training
Not all contributions were in monetary terms, with the United Kingdom (UK) promising to provide 240 troops to train Anglophone troops from countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and The Gambia.
Nevertheless the UK cautioned that the Sahel region has to have sustainable economic and political policies to stop it from becoming a haven for “terrorist franchises”.
Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister Teodros Adhanom pledged USD 5 million worth of logistical aid.
Sweden’s Ambassador to Ethiopia, Jens Odlander, also pledged to provide training for both AFISMA and Malian security forces.
The training will be provided through a Joint Swedish- Finnish-Norwegian training force of close to 50 troops.
The oil rich African nation of Equatorial Guinea gave assurances that it will avail its rich oil and gas resources for the joint forces’ fuel needs. It also pledged USD 5 million to the AFISMA and MDSF.
Chadian troops contingent largest
The Central African nation of Chad, which isn’t a member of ECOWAS, but has a similar desert terrain of that of Mali has pledged close to 2,300 troops.
Chadian Foreign Minister Mustafa Kimama informed participants that more than 1,800 of its troops have arrived in Mali.
“Chad has a history of being subjected to foreign aggression,” Kimama said, adding that Chadian troops are ready to confront fast moving militants who can travel 1000kms in 24 hours using Toyota Pickups.
Another Non-ECOWAS nation, Burundi has pledged one battalion of troops for the AFISMA mission. Burundi currently has a sizeable peacekeeping contingent along with Uganda in conflict torn Somalia, helping defend against Islamist insurgent groups and prop up the Somali Government.
AFISMA had initially projected 3,300 troops under resolution 2085, but now it’s expected to double that figure, with West African military powerhouse Nigeria expected to contribute 900 combat soldiers and 300 air force personnel to Mali.
Other West African nations have pledged smaller troop numbers for Mali.
Follow up conferences to be held
It was also revealed at the conference that follow-up meetings will be held by various other organizations.
Among these is a special conference of the 57 member strong Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) of which Mali is a member being hosted in Turkey on the 5th of February.
The European Union has also announced that it will have a meeting in its Brussels Headquarters, also on the 5th of February.
In line with the Italian representative’s statement, the EU said it’s time for a nationwide consensus between the various factions that have cut ties with the “terrorist groups”.
Elections postponed until the 31st of July
One of the possible scenarios cited as a way of returning Mali to constitutional and democratic order, elections, have now been postponed to 31st of July, from the earlier April deadline.
Dioncounda Traore, President of Mali, said that the country had shown concrete steps to host credible, free and fair elections.
He added that it was decided that the 31st of July was the chosen date to hold these elections.
In January 2012, Mali was destabilized by an armed rebellion, initially led by a group championing the interests’ of a nomadic Saharan ethnic group called “Tuaregs”.
The Movement for National Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which had planned to create a separate state in northern Mali, subsequently took advantage of a coup in the capital, Bamako to take over the whole of northern Mali.
Azawad is a name given by ethnic Tuaregs to their homeland which they claim encompasses most of the desert regions of African nations in the north west of the continent. It includes southern Algeria, Libya, Northern Mali and Niger.
However the MNLA was soon displaced by a myriad of local and regional based Islamist and jihadist groups, which earlier this month tried to advance on areas of Northern Mali which are government controlled.
French troops launched “Operation Serval” on January 11th, with the aim of halting the advance of Islamist forces which control much of northern Mali.
The operation was launched because of the time it took to organize the deployment of AFISMA troops to combat the Islamic insurgents and stabilize the Malian government.