16 January 2013, 15:51

UN backs French intervention in Mali

UN backs French intervention in Mali
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The United Nations Security Council has unanimously endorsed the French intervention in Mali. It came as French President Francois Hollande announced he's increasing troops to stop Islamist extremists taking control of the capital Bamako. A pan-African force of 3,000 will join the French in the coming weeks.

When the U.N.’s Security Council held an emergency meeting in NY, the support for France’s intervention in Mali was clear. All 14 members of the Council endorsed the offensive. France’s U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud:

We had an extraordinary expression of support. I have not heard any country or any institution expressing disagreement with what we have decided. This has been the case with the UN Secretary-General of the U.N. in his phone call with Laurent Fabius and today publicly around the table with the fifteen.

All the international discussions about an African-led offensive against Mali’s Islamist rebels have been continuing for many months. The U.N. wanted more groundwork ensuring the African force would provide a credible military before any action was taken.

The U.N. has talked about delaying intervention until December, this year. But the French ran out of patience last week. Gerard Araud:

Suddenly, the terrorist armed groups launched an offensive. They have taken the city of Konna. At this moment, our assessment was that they were totally able to take Bamako. So we decided that the existence of the state of Mali and, beyond Mali, the stability of all West Africa were at stake.

The French who are fighting a complex enemy in Mali made up a various Islamist groups – they include al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Defenders of the Faith and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa. Then there’re secularists who want their own state. Andy Morgan is a freelance journalist specializing in West Africa.

It’s a very-very desperate group and that’s the issue. What’s happening in Egypt and Tunisia put a society’s split between branches of Islamists. That conflict is being reproduced in Northern Mali, within every community, within every ethnicity you have a broad range of views. He says the international community supported the French operation because they too felt the U.N. has been dragging its feet.

I think the international community now cannot be seen to disapprove of such an obvious attack on a rather brutal Islamist regime, so they’ve given a unanimous support .You would have thought that maybe Russia and China may have held back, but they haven’t.

The regional group of West African states ECOWAS met in Bamako today to discuss the alliance of French and African troops. 3,000 troops will make the pan-African force. Nigeria will contribute 900. Britain has deployed two military planes for transporting French troops and equipment to Africa. While U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said that the Pentagon will also provide limited logistical support. Mr. Panetta told reporters that the U.S. has responsibility to go after al-Qaeda wherever they are and ensure the radical groups doesn’t establish a base for international operations in Mali. Journalist Andy Morgan says that’s a legitimate concern, but most West-African Islamist groups have been looking southward, concentrating on spreading Islam within the continent.

I think it’s always been a possibility, although there hasn’t been the great deal of evidence for it in the last decade or so. And it’s also must be said that Islamism is always a cover of much more complex social problems, economic problems. And it’s those problems that have basically been the real issue in Northern Mali. And the problem with the Western response is often to ignore those problems whilst trying to tackle the symptom which is a kind of drift of Islamism and anti-Westernism.

The U.N. says the renewed clashed in the North together with draught and political instability have caused thousands of civilians in Mali to be displaced. It says nearly 150,000 people have fled the country and another 230,000 are internally displaced. Since the offensive began on Friday, Islamists have said to have withdrawn from the major towns of Timbuktu and Gao. At least 11 Malian soldiers and a French helicopter pilot have died so far. More than 100 militants are believed to have been killed.

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