Dialogue in Mali remains the preferred option- ECOWAS Heads

From Benjamin Mensah, GNA Special Correspondent in Abuja, Nigeria

Abuja, – Leaders of the ECOWAS sub-regional group on Sunday reiterated dialogue with the Islamist terrorists in Mali as the preferred option to resolve the political crisis in the West African State.

They however warned that they might recourse to force to dismantle the rebels and criminal network.

The leaders stressed the role of the of ECOWAS in the deployment of the African led international force and its intention to keep a stand-by force ready for imminent deployment.

This was contained in a communiqué adopted at the end of an extraordinary session of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.

Consequently, about 3,300 troops could be sent to Mali to help oust Islamist terrorists who have taken control of that country’s northern territory.

The summit, attended by Vice President Paa Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur, was convened to evaluate the latest developments in the security and institutional challenges of the political transitions in Mali and Guinea Bissau.

The Heads of State and Government reaffirmed their determination to assist Mali and Guinea Bissau in the resolution of their security and institutional crisis.

The assistance, within the framework of the norms and principles underpinning Community protocols, in the light of United Nations Resolution 2071 adopted last October 12 that demanded that the armed groups should cease human rights abuses and humanitarian violations in northern Mali.

The majority of the military forces will be provided by Nigeria, Burkina Faso and Niger, and the proposed one year mandate would begin after a vote by the United Nations in coming weeks.

Islamists linked to al Qaeda wrested control of Timbuktu and northern Mali following a military coup in March, and imposed a strict form of Islamic law on areas they control, attracting international condemnation for destroying ancient tombs recognised as UN world heritage sites.

The ECOWAS leaders, from more than a dozen African countries also discussed the fragile situation in Guinea Bissau, and called on the African Union to recognise the transitional government.

They condemned the violence in Guinea Bissau and instructed the ECOWAS Commission to expedite action on the joint assessment to that country by body and international allies like the African Union, the Community of Portuguese Language Countries, the United Nations and the European Union.

The Authority reiterated its decision that the interim President, the Prime Minister, and the other members of the Transitional Government should not be candidates in the next presidential election.

The Authority decided to extend the initial six-month term of the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea Bissau, which expires on November 17, to another six months, and called on the International Community to ease sanctions imposed on the country to alleviate the suffering of the people. GNA

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