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Africa wants to lead military interventions, but will the West foot the bill?
December 20, 2012, 3:08 pm

As the UN Security Council considers authorising an African force to militarily intervene in Mali, neighbouring countries are increasingly calling for such measures to become the norm rather than a trend du jour.

But they may have to wait until another year before there are boots on the ground and it remains unclear whether the West is willing to finance repeated operations.

For the time being, both African and Western nations agree that the situation in Mali is a serious global security threat.

Although the Security Council in October passed a resolution citing its readiness to back an international military force – led by Nigeria and other African nations – to liberate northern Mali, practical efforts seem to have stalled.

Herve Ladsous, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told a conference in Paris in early December that a military operation would not be under way until September 2013 at the earliest.

“This is a process in evolution,” he said.

Experts say a Security Council resolution to authorise the African military action could take months.

And there are fears that some African governments may not live up to their commitments.

Nevertheless, West African countries are hoping to adopt an “African solutions to African problems” approach – they say they are better equipped to deal with domestic variables, demographics, and the growing use of militias.

They also say the delays and hesitation are frustrating.

“The practice that the United Nations can only engage where there is peace to keep translates into the United Nations’ abandonment of some of the most challenging crisis situations,” Moses Wetangula, Kenya’s then foreign minister, told the Security Council earlier this year.

African Union members say that former peacekeeping models employed by the international community need to be revised and perhaps amended in order to deal with ever-changing realities on the ground.

The idea has been gaining ground. In September, France urged the US to speed up its support of an African-led military intervention to free Northern Mali of extremist forces linked to Al-Qaeda.

Western nations have voiced fears that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb used the political instability created by a coup in March to seize control of Mali’s northern sector and set up a virtual state within a state – a sanctuary for extremist groups.

France has said that failure or delay to intervene could lead to an Afghanistan-type situation in Africa.

African nations, citing decades of failed statehood in Somalia, say this is exactly what they want to avoid.

Firas Al-Atraqchi


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