Military and political action necessary if Mali elections are to take place in July


With elections tentatively set for July in Mali, both the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) have urged all stakeholders to support the transition process both from a political and military point of view.

This emerged from last week’s fourth meeting of the AU support and follow-up group on Mali in Addis Ababa.

The meeting was also attended by the UN’s top political official, Jeffrey Feltman, who said: “Efforts should be redoubled to ensure the political process, which is key to Mali’s stability in both the short and long term, is not overshadowed by the equally essential military operations currently underway”.

He noted the UN Security Council was expected to make decisions “soon” on options presented in the latest report of the secretary-general on Mali. This includes the possible establishment of a UN peacekeeping mission in the country.

Feltman, UN under-secretary-general for political affairs, called on the international community to provide “timely financial and logistic support for the elections”. This as the world body was intensifying its efforts in support of preparations for “free, fair, transparent and credible polls” in keeping with international standards.
“We hope ongoing security operations as well as well as the appointment of the Commission for Dialogue and Reconciliation will help overcome these challenges and pace the way for inclusive and credible elections.”

Presidential elections are tentatively scheduled for July 7 with legislative elections to follow two weeks later on July 21.

An AU statement released after the support and follow-up group meeting urged all Malian stakeholders to support the transition process and the country’s interim authorities.

The continental body also pointed out the international community’s resolve to take measures “including sanctions against those undermining the transition process”. The UN would be requested to consider sanctions “if the situation warrants”.

The AU welcomed the start of military training delivered by the EU Training Mission as part of the important task of training and reforming the Malian Defence and Security Forces (MDSF). “This is part of the total restoration of the Mali chain of command under civilian control,” the AU statement read.

Indications are the UN Security Council will approve creation of a 12 600 strong peacekeeping force for Mali in July. The force is expected to be made up of primarily African contingents with Mauritania saying it will contribute 1 800 troops.

The UN force will take over peacekeeping duties from France which has indicated it will start scaling down its current 4 000 strong military deployment in Mali to 1 000 by year-end.

France, aided by about 2 400 troops from Chad, began a military offensive in January to drive out Islamist fighters, who had hijacked a revolt by Mali’s Tuareg rebels and seized two-thirds of the West African country.