ECOWAS troops for Guinea-Bissau and Mali
Regional body to send troops to both West African states to help swiftly reinstate civilian rule after coups
West African leaders will send troops to Mali and Guinea-Bissau to help both countries to return to civilian rule after military coups, and have threatened sanctions if junta leaders attempt to hold on to power.
The Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, said in a statement after an emergency summit on Thursday that it would be sending troops to Mali to support the transitional government’s fight against rebels that control the country’s north.
“The heads of state and of government decided to take all the necessary measures in order to assist Mali in the re-establishment of its unity and of its territorial integrity,” the statement, released after the meeting in the Ivory Coast city of Abidjan, said.
Between 500 and 600 troops will also be sent immediately to Guinea-Bissau, it said.
Mutinying soldiers in Mali overthrew the government on March 22, while the army of Guinea-Bissau seized power and derailed presidential elections during a coup on April 12.
Paul Koffi Koffi, Ivory Coast’s deputy defence minister, told Associated Press news agency said that the West African regional bloc would be sending “at least 3,000 troops to Mali”.
The junta in Mali has already handed over power to an interim civilian government under the presidency of Dioncounda Traore as part of a deal brokered by ECOWAS.
Traore faces the twin challenges of holding elections and asserting control over northern parts of the country that are now controlled by Tuareg separatists.
The Tuareg fighters have declared independence in the region they refer to as Azawad. Their armed uprising to take control of that area involved an alliance with armed groups who are also calling for the imposition of Islamic law in the area.
Pictured: Dioncounda Traore, Mali’s interim president, will receive support to fight Tuareg rebels [AFP]