ECOWAS Plans Mali Mediation Mission

Posted March 20th, 2012 at 2:25 am (UTC-5)
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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says it is preparing to send a team to Mali to promote talks between the government and northern Tuareg rebels ahead of next month's scheduled elections.

ECOWAS Communications Director Sonny Ugoh told VOA the bloc wants to bring the two sides together to discuss what is behind the rebellion, and that it is hopeful the mediation will work.

“We are trying to encourage dialogue, to encourage the parties to talk, because we believe that they can only find common ground and they can only be driven by patriotic instincts to discuss whatever the problems are and to arrive at a solution beyond the shooting and the killing, which is not helpful to the country and is not helpful to West Africa.”

Ugoh said he does not want to put a timeline on resolving the situation, but that he thinks the process is on the right track.

He called on all Malians to support the talks, saying the country needs dialogue and not “unnecessary bloodshed” and “unnecessary destruction of property.”

“Because that is the road that is more durable, that is the road that will protect the sanctity of the country, and that is the road at the end of the day, that will leave Malians from wherever they are – whether in the north or the south – consider themselves as Malians working for the protection and defense of their country.”

Tuareg fighters in northern Mali began attacking towns and government positions in January. Many of the fighters returned to Mali from Libya last year, after fighting on behalf of ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The United Nations said last month that fighting between government forces and Tuareg rebels has forced about 130,000 people to flee their homes to seek refuge in neighboring Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.