Presidents of Cote D’Ivoire, Allassane Ouattara
By Muhammad Bello
President Goodluck Jonathan Friday held a closed door meeting with Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Presidents of Cote D’Ivoire, Allassane Ouattara and Chairman of the African Union (AU) President Boni Yayi where issues of security in the sub-region was said to have dominated their discussion.
The meeting which held at the residence of Jonathan lasted for over three hours focused on the situation in Mali where more than 420,000 people, according to a United Nations (UN) figure have been displaced. They were forced to flee their homes in both north and south Mali mid-July. Equally, about 175,000 have been internally displaced within the country with about 250,000 people fleeing across the border to Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso, the UN said.
This, in addition to acute malnutrition, recruitment of children as soldiers, sexual abuses and free use of explosive devices put the lives of 18 million lives at risk.
Yayi, and Ouattara after meeting with Jonathan told newsmen that the meeting was necessitated by the challenges confronting the sub region, particular the development in Mali.
Ouattara said he was in the country to seek Jonathan's support and advice on the challenges, pointing out that a decision on what will be done by the ECOWAS would be made public in a couple of days. "You will know the decision taken on Mali in the next few days," he emphasized.
He said, "I was invited by President Jonathan to the inaugural ceremony of the National Defence College. I participated in the ceremony for the Class of 21 graduates. The theme of the conference was ECOWAS as an instrument of Security and Peace.
"The theme is very key to what we are doing. As you know, Mali is a problem for all of us in West Africa, so I came for the advice and support of President Jonathan on some of the problems we have in the sub region”.
In July, Ouattara had told Le Journal du Dimanche, a French weekly that member state of ECOWAS would soon deploy troops in Mali if the situation in the country did not improve rapidly.
Yesteday he said, “If the (Malian) situation does not evolve positively and quickly, yes, there will be a military intervention in Mali. It seems to me inevitable.
“The chiefs of staff of West Africa met in Abidjan this week. All member states of ECOWAS were represented. It shows that the Joint Chiefs of Staff Officers propose the establishment of a contingent of nearly 3,300 men. Initially, it will deploy gendarmes and police. Then, the military. “My chief of staff said this week rightly that the situation in Mali is deteriorating a little more each day and not only in the north but also south. We plan to establish an African peacekeeping force made up half of Malian soldiers, half of soldiers from Niger, Nigeria, perhaps in Chad and other countries.”
It will be recalled that following the respective coup de tat in Mali and Guinea Bissau, ECOWAS and other international organisations had taken decisive steps to restore democratic order in the two countries.
Specifically, the leader of the March 22 coup in Mali, Capt. Amadou Sanogo, handed over power to an interim government on April 13 following sanctions and intervention by ECOWAS.
Mali interim leader and former parliamentary Speaker, Mr. Diongunda Traore was given 40 days to organise elections in that country. There was however, a report of a counter-coup in Mali on May 1, by forces loyal to the ousted President Amadou Toure.