Rush to July election in Mali as ceasefire in north signed
By SAPA and AFP, The Citizen (South Africa), June 21, 2013
(Further below: UN green-lights Mali force)
BAMAKO – The clock is ticking for Mali as it scrambles to organise key elections in less than 40 days following a ceasefire deal between the government and separatist Tuareg rebels. The agreement, reached on Tuesday (June 18) after 10 days of tense negotiations, will enable Malian troops to enter the Tuareg-held city of Kidal in the northeast to secure polls scheduled to take place on July 28.
Malians have welcomed the truce but there are fears the deal will be difficult to implement and could unravel after the vote.
Malian military sources say the accord envisages the army entering the regional capital “without delay”, accompanied by French soldiers and troops from the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (Afisma).
French President Francois Hollande told a meeting of his cabinet the agreement was “a major breakthrough”, his spokesman said. The US also welcomed the deal. “The agreement clears the way for the return of Malian administrative and security authorities to Kidal to permit the holding of presidential elections there on July 28,” State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said.
And the UN Security Council urged other armed groups who had cut ties with “terrorist organisations” in Mali to join the ceasefire.
But analysts raised a number of problems with securing a long-term ceasefire, such as difficulties monitoring any disarmament; and differentiating Tuareg militants from the diverse range of insurgents infesting Mali’s north.
“Ultimately, this is an interim agreement to allow the organisation of the presidential elections in Kidal,” Malian analyst Mamadou Samake told AFP. “It has not solved all the problems, it just put off some of the problems.”
For more detail, see the postings on the French-language page of ‘A Socialist in Canada’ titled Le Mali, en français.
EU-trained Mali troops head to Gao [northern Mali]
BAMAKO, June 26, 2013 (AFP): Around 700 EU-trained soldiers have been deployed to war-torn Mali’s desert north, a military source told AFP on Tuesday. The contingent — the first from the European Union Training Mission in Mali — left the capital Bamako on Monday [June 24] for the northeastern city of Gao, a Malian defence ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
The French army’s chief of staff, General Edouard Guillaud, was also in northern Mali Tuesday “for a field trip”, said a Malian military source.
The European Union began a top-to-toe overhaul of Mali’s weak, ragtag army in April to help soldiers in the west African nation take over from foreign troops defending it against Islamist extremists.
UN green-lights Mali force
UNITED NATIONS, June 26, (AP): The UN Security Council approved the July 1 deployment of a Mali peacekeeping force tasked with helping the government regain control of rebel-held areas and organize crucial elections, all while facing harsh challenges in a vast desert territory.
A June 18 accord between Mali’s government and the Tuareg rebels has raised hopes that the West African country is on track to regaining stability after losing half its territory last year to a rebel invasion.
The 15-country Security Council unanimously decided that conditions are in place to start deploying the peacekeeping mission on July 1 as scheduled, Britain’s UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told reporters after a council meeting. The 12,640-member UN force will replace a 6,000-member Africanled mission now in Mali.
Some of the French troops who ousted radical Islamic groups from northern Mali in January will remain in the country, ready to intervene under a soon-to-be signed agreement if the UN mission comes under “imminent and serious threat,” said Herve Ladsous, the UN undersecretary-general for peacekeeping operations.