- Amadou Toumani Touré - coups - Mali
UN Security Council calls for an end to fighting in Mali
The UN Security Council on Wednesday called for an end to hostilities and a return to constitutional rule in northern Mali two weeks after a coup, amid concerns over the presence of al Qaeda in the strife-torn African nation.
AP - The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday condemned the military coup in Mali, calling for the immediate restoration of constitutional rule and the democratically elected government.
In a presidential statement read by U.S. deputy ambassador Jeffrey DeLaurentis, the council called on rebels who have taken advantage of the power vacuum to wrest control of the northern half of the country to cease all violence.
The statement also expressed alarm at the presence of the terrorist group Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.
President Amadou Toumani Toure was sent into hiding March 21 when disgruntled soldiers mutinied at a military base near the presidential palace and marched on the seat of government. In a matter of hours, they had succeeded in reversing more than two decades of democracy.
“Mali has never experienced such a situation,” Mali’s U.N. Ambassador Omar Daou told the council. “Our people are divided. Our country is threatened with partition.
The north of Mali is today occupied by Tuareg rebels and Salafists. Hundreds of thousands of refugees and IDPs (internally displaced persons) are currently living in unimaginable conditions.”
The United States, France and the European Union immediately cut all but essential humanitarian aid to the country. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said Wednesday that $13 million in aid to Mali’s government had been halted. It includes about $600,000 in military assistance as well as funds supporting educational, agricultural, health and investment programs run by the government.
“These are worthwhile programs that are now suspended because that aid goes directly to the government of Mali,” Toner told reporters. Concerning the coup, he added: “There’s clearly a price to this.”
The remainder of the $140 million in annual U.S. aid to Mali is still being considered, Toner said.
On Monday, the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, imposed severe financial sanctions on Mali, including the closing of the country’s borders and the freezing of its account at the regional central bank.
Daou said that while he understood the reason for the embargo, it was aggravating an already severe humanitarian crisis: “With all of this, is this the time to close the borders? Is this the time to leave our people thirsty and hungry?”
The humanitarian organization Oxfam echoed Daou’s concerns, pointing out that 40 percent of the country’s goods come from outside Mali.
“Some 3.5 million people are at risk as the country has been hit by one of the worst food crises in decades,” Eric Mamboue, Oxfam’s country director in Mali, said in a statement. “We are concerned that some of the sanctions imposed by neighboring countries and supported by the Security Council, if maintained for more than a few days, could serve to make an already desperate situation even worse.”
The council statement expressed concern over a growing humanitarian crisis in the Sahel region and called on the international community to step up aid to the landlocked nation at the edge of the Sahara.