PARIS: African Union Commission head Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma yesterday urged armed groups in Mali, sliced in two since a coup, to sever ties with “terrorists.”
Her appeal following talks in Paris with French President Francois Hollande came as African plans to send a 3,300-strong military force to retake control of northern Mali gathered pace with a west African regional bloc and the African Union endorsing military intervention.
Mali rapidly imploded after a coup in Bamako in March allowed Tuareg desert nomads, who had relaunched a decades-old rebellion for independence, to seize the main towns in the desert north.
Tuareg were quickly sidelined by militants linked to Al-Qaeda, who implemented their separate law.
“We’d like to convince the armed Malian groups to come to the negotiations and to delink themselves with the terrorists and criminal groups,” said Zuma.
“The preparations for the intervention are continuing, and we’ll take it step by step,” she said, stressing that she preferred a peaceful resolution.
“Obviously, if we can get peace in Mali and recovering the territorial integrity without going to war fine, but we are preparing,” Zuma added. The entire northern expanse of Mali — an area bigger than France — has been under rebel control since shortly after a March 22 army coup that led to a power vacuum across the desert north that was quickly filled by rebel forces.
Meanwhile, Ansar Dine, one of the armed groups occupying northern Mali, said yesterday it does not want to impose separate law across the entire country, but still wants to keep it in its stronghold of Kidal. The movement currently occupies the sparsely populated Kidal region in the northeast of the country.
Hollande, who has said that France would not intervene on its own in the crisis, reiterated yesterday that “it is the responsibility of Africans to find solutions so that Mali regains its territorial integrity.” The UN is expected to pass a resolution approving the African military mission for Mali before the end of the year, but it is still not clear when the first troops could be deployed.