MOSCOW, January 12 (RIA Novosti) – The ongoing military operation against the Islamist insurgency in Mali, which was recently joined by French forces, should be led by either the United Nations or countries of the region, the Kremlin’s envoy to Africa said on Saturday.
“The situation in Mali is understandable, but I believe that any military operation in Africa can and should be flying the flags of the UN and the African Union,” Mikhail Margelov said.
“Nobody but the Africans can and should be solving the continent’s problems,” Margelov, who sits on the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, told RIA Novosti.
France deployed earlier this week a military forces to aid Mali’s government, whose army had been retreating before the attack of armed groups with ties to Al-Qaida.
The French intervention allowed Mali’s government on Friday to recapture the strategic town of Konna in the country’s central region, taken by Islamists earlier this week, BBC reported.
The French involvement was endorsed on Friday by the ECOWAS, a bloc comprising 15 West African countries, including Mali. The bloc said on Saturday it would soon act out a UN Security Council’s resolution from December and deploy its own armed peacekeepers in Mali.
Mali, a French colony until 1960, is in turmoil since last March’s military coup, which triggered an uprising of separatist Tuareg tribes that seized control of the country’s south.
The Tuaregs were soon suppressed by the better armed Al-Qaida affiliates who overtook control of the northern region, imposing Sharia law and destroying historical heritage sites in Timbuktu, and later started a southward advance.
On Friday, France also staged a separate military operation on the other side of Africa, trying to break out its secret agent Denis Allex, held since 2009 by al-Shabab, Al-Qaida’s allies in Somali, BBC said, citing French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Unlike the Mali attack, the Somali raid failed, with French commandos repelled, at least one of them missing and Allex’s faith unclear, the report said.