Donors pledge millions for war-torn Mali


African leaders and international officials have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars at a donor conference in Ethiopia to support military operations against rebels in Mali.
Dioncounda Traore, Mali’s president, thanked the “entire international community” as nations offered cash or support at the meeting at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa on Tuesday.
About $600m has been pledged so far, including more than $120m from Japan and $96m from the US. The conference comes a day after French-led forces seized Mali’s fabled city of Timbuktu as part of an offensive against fighters who have controlled northern Mali for about 10 months. Al Jazeera’s Jacky Rowland reporting from Timbuktu on Tuesday, said Malian troops had established a very clear physical presence in the city.
“They’re manning checkpoints and intersections and they’re talking to local people – sending a very clear visual message that they’re in charge now, rather than the al-Qaeda-linked rebels who seized the city last year,” she said. “Timbuktu is a very important point along the road.”
Conference participants: African leaders and officials, as well as representatives from the UN, EU and China, are taking part in the Addis Ababa conference. “We all know the gravity of the crisis,” Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, AU commission chief, said. “It is a situation that requires a swift and effective international response for it threatens Mali, the region, the continent and even beyond.”
The AU has promised to contribute $50m, but has estimated its force in Mali will cost $460m.
There is no clear figure for how much the Addis Ababa conference is aiming to raise, although diplomats have suggested some $700m will be needed for AFISMA and the Malian army, in addition to heavy humanitarian costs.
Alassane Ouattara, Ivory Coast president and chairman of 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), said there was an “urgent need to speed up the deployment” of regional troops. A lack of cash and logistical resources has hampered the efforts of African troops to support Mali’s army. So far, just 2,000 African troops have been deployed, with the bulk of the fighting borne by 2,500 French troops. France launched its offensive in Mali on January 11. “We are gathered here today to provide AFISMA ways to carry out its work of restoring the sovereignty and integrity of Mali, prerequisites for lasting political stability,” Laurent Fabius, French foreign minister, said, using the acronym for the AU force.
Traore, the Malian president, also called on the wider Muslim world to support efforts, and to show that “Islam at its heart does not serve as a cover for terrorism and organised crime”. Ban Ki-moon, UN chief, gave warning in advance of the conference that there was a “moral imperative for the entire international community” to provide support. Hailemariam Desalegn, AU chairman and Ethiopian prime minister, thanked France for “timely support” in its military intervention in Mali, as well as praising West African troops. “Forging strong co-ordination … will enable us to speedily restore the territorial integrity of the country, and progressively address the challenges of terrorism and extremism in the region,” he said.