Mali’s government has asked for UN-backed military intervention in the country against thousands of rebels, armed and used by NATO on Libya, who have now returned home.
Mali’s army is said to be incapable of controlling the situation and so the government has asked for a UN backing of an ECOWAS force (Economic Community of West African States) to drive rebels out - a move backed by France, Britain and the US.
Aid agencies say that a military intervention will make matters worse for Africa’s interest and exacerbate the humanitarian crisis that already exists there.
Press TV in its Africa Today
program has interviewed Julius Mbaluto, a political analyst in London, to further talk over the issue. The video also offers the opinions of two additional guests: Mr. Vincent Gasana, a broadcast journalist from London, and Professor Okey Onyejekwe who is with the Center for Sustalnable Governanace from Largos.
What follows is an approximate transcript of the interview.
What do you make of the interim president of Mali, Dioncounda Traore, requesting this mandate from Ban Ki-moon, went to table this resolution, get the backing of the UN Security Council and then say to the West Africans okay on you go, send in this intervention force.
On the one hand, it seems to be kind of confusing because ECOWAS would have gone straight like it has done before but on the other hand, I can see the role of the international community also is very important.
Remember that most of the times when solutions come which are focused on the international conflict, they tend to have a solution that is acceptable by most of the countries only when they have a UN mandate.
But getting the UN mandate can take months and the pressing situation is right there present at the moment; something like 260 thousand people have fled their homes in Northern Mali. Can Africans who are on the ground close to the action afford to wait for the endorsement of the UN Security Council? Is this a wise move?
Ideally, it would have just been easy to just go on and do what they have to do because ECOWAS, I think, is a regional force. They are the power to solve or intervene when things have really gone out of hand.
But I think also probably the international community wants to be seen as part of the solution and that is a key thing because when you look at it, France has been actually the one proposing for this kind of UN Security mandate.
Also they are backed by the US and also if you remember now, as we speak, these three thousand soldiers are waiting to go in and also US and France are willing to contribute, as we speak.
How concerned are you that this may be seen not regional African intervention force but one that is being essentially aided and abetted and cajoled from outside by Paris, by London, by Washington because they are interested in other things? There is mining in that region; there is oil in that region and this is a form of new colonialism.
I will say these. Most of the time whenever there is resources in a country, the perception of the international community has always been that the international community seems to be quick to move.
Many argue that why it took 20 year of Somali’s instabilities because perhaps there was no oil or gold or something they could really be quick again. And also when you think about terrorism and the war on terror basically, that is another kind of things that makes the West move extremely fast and what are we talking about? Mali, as we speak, we have got about two [third] of the country being controlled by these rebels and also the movement.
Even if it looks bad, even if Laurent Farbius, the foreign minister of France is pushing this and helping to cajole the Africans, it does not matter because in this case Western interests and African interests converge.
They do converge but I think what matters is because we lack the kind of logistics to combat problems of this nature and that is why probably, as we are speaking, you have about 200 troops already training in Africa and also 400 from the US also training.
Your final thoughts please, Mr. Mbaluto.
I share with Vincent [Gasana, the other guest on the show] the point that there should be separation between these Islamists and whatever because, for me, I see them as extremists basically.
That is what they are and if you see them just as extremists, then you will see what they already have done; the destruction of shrines which are of historical importance.
Those Sufi shrines that have been there for five hundred years?
Exactly and when you think about a country, every country has a right to its own heritage and therefore, if you allow extremists to begin to destroy that particular part of heritage, they are not good for the country and I think they need to be kicked out.
It is not something to say about Islam or any religion; I think it is just extremism and they have got their own agenda and I would not be surprised even as well, the West has got their commercial interests, business interests and if they collude with these other people who have their own interests as well, it is not good for Africa.
So I am okay when the international community gets involved because at the end of the day you legitimize the international rule.
So it is a good thing that the ECOWAS forces did not go straight in and they waited.
Yes, and there is consultation going on.