Restore civilian rule in Mali by July 31: AU

July 15th, 2012 - 6:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Addis Ababa, July 15 (IANS) Voicing concern over the post-coup crisis in Mali, home to priceless treasures of Timbuktu, as one of biggest security threats to Africa, the 54-nation African Union Sunday pitched for restoration of the civilian government in the West African state by July-end.

“The situation in Mali constitutes the most serious threat to peace and stability in Africa. We need to restore security and democracy,” Jean Ping, the chairperson of the AU Commission, its principal executive body, said at the opening session of the heads of state and government meeting in the Ethiopian capital, the headquarters of the AU.

“There is systematic and organized destruction of ancient treasures in Timbuktu, which belong not only to Mali but to Africa. The link between the past, the present and the future is vanishing,” said Ping, a former foreign minister of Gabon.

He said the AU is working with the western regional bloc, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to support Mali’s interim government, installed after a March 22 coup, to speed up resolution of the crisis.

The AU’s Peace and Security Council, a 15-member body, has set July 31 as the deadline for restoration of civilian rule in Mali.

The fragile security situation in Mali dominated discussions among African leaders Sunday and at a meeting of the 15-member council on Saturday which recommended protection to all state installations in Bamako and the restoration of state power across the state.

The council asked the AU commission chairperson to work with Mali’s interim president and prime minister to initiate the process of forming the civilian government based on talks with other key players in the West African state.

The ECOWAS is exploring a military intervention by African forces, but will have to wait till a formal request by the Malian government is made and the proposal is backed by the United Nations Security Council.

UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said military action “should only be considered if all avenues for dialogue have been exhausted”.

Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militants have seized large swathes of desert north of Mali in the aftermath of the March 22 military coup in the southern capital Bamako. Militants have gone on a plundering spree and have destroyed many holy shrines, fuelling apprehensions about the region becoming a new hub for extremists.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, the AU Peace and Security Council chair, said the conference “condemns the aim of the terrorist groups to turn northern Mali into a sanctuary and a coordination centre for terrorist groups on the continent such as AQIM, MUJAO, Boko Haram and al-Shebab.”

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