Military, political tracks must proceed together in Mali: UN official

Wednesday, January 23, 2013
 UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, briefs the Security Council on the situation in Mali.
[UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe] 
New York: Success in tackling the ongoing crisis in Mali requires strong military action along with intense focus on the political challenges, while also addressing the dire humanitarian situation in the country, the top United Nations political affairs official stressed.

Jeffrey Feltman, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, said "for then months now, the world has watched with horror as the people of northern Mali have been subjected to almost unspeakable brutality at the hands of armed extremists and terrorists" adding that "friends of the Malian people in the region and beyond were shocked by the abrupt collapse of constitutional order in Mali and the threat to Mali's territorial integrity and unity, exacerbating an already dire situation."

Fighting between Government forces and Tuareg rebels broke out in northern Mali last January, after which radical Islamists seized control of the area. The renewed clashes in the North, as well as the proliferation of armed groups in the region, drought and political instability in the wake of a military coup d'état in March have uprooted hundreds of thousands of civilians over the course of 2012.

In his briefing to the Security Council, Feltman said "The problems of Mali also need to be seen in the context of the broader Sahel region, as we cannot expect to alleviate the crisis in the Sahel without simultaneously improving the situation in Mali that can spill over, and in fact has done so, into neighbouring countries."

In December 2012, the Council adopted resolution 2085, authorizing the deployment of an African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA), for an initial period of one year to assist the authorities in recovering rebel-held regions in the north and restoring the unity of the country.

Feltman reported that the deployment of AFISMA troops and headquarters staff officers began on 18 January. There is general agreement among key stakeholders in the capital, Bamako, that the envisaged AFISMA strength of 3,300 personnel needs to be increased in order for it to engage effectively in offensive operations and enhance force protection, he noted.

He noted that due to the accelerated deployment of AFISMA troops, critical equipment, logistical and other support for the troops is urgently required.

For his Part, Malian Ambassador Oumar Daou thanked the people of France and its President, François Hollande, "who took stock of the threat inherent in the southward march of terrorist groups and immediately accepted the Malian President's request thereby saving Mali as a state and restoring hope to the people of Mali."

France launched an air operation 11 January after armed groups overran the town of Konna, which had been on the de facto dividing line between those areas under Government control and those already occupied by the rebels. -UNifeed
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