ECOWAS calls for national unity government in Mali
By Bakari Guèye for Magharebia in Nouakchott – 10/07/12
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Saturday (July 7th) demanded that Mali form a national unity government by the end of the month or else face suspension.
"Malian stakeholders unreservedly condemn the destruction by armed movements of cultural assets, particularly the holy sites of Timbuktu, which form part of the world’s cultural heritage," the leaders of body's six nations said in a joint communique after meeting for a mini-summit in Burkina Faso capital Ouagadougou.
"They call for firm action from ECOWAS and the international community to put an end to violence against the population, and to destruction and religious fanaticism," the statement read.
Heads of state of Ivory Coast, Niger, Togo, Benin, Nigeria and Burkina Faso expressed their "grave concern over the situation facing the population of northern Mali, coping with the occupation of that part of the country by armed movements and the absence of state services".
They called on the Malian government to "take the necessary steps, with the support of ECOWAS, to restore its authority and administration over the whole national territory", according to the communiqué.
On the political note, the six countries urged the government "to adopt without delay a roadmap which should lead to a calm resolution of the crisis, with the government recovering the entire national territory and the organisation of fair, transparent and credible elections in which the interim president, prime minister and members of the transitional government would not stand as candidates".
The Contact Group reaffirmed its support for Mali's territorial integrity and sovereignty, along with "the secular nature of the state and freedom of religion". It extended an appeal to "all Malian socio-political players, including the armed movements unlawfully occupying the north of the country, to favour dialogue and to work together to preserve social cohesion and national unity".
Malian armed movements must "distance themselves from the terrorist groups and from all extremism, in order to allow inclusive dialogue and a rapid end to the crisis".
"The heads of state of the Contact Group member countries would encourage the Malian government to set up a national structure to engage with the armed movements in the north of Mali in peace talks under the auspices of the ECOWAS Mediator, in order to find negotiated political solutions to the crisis through dialogue," the statement read.
The group called upon "the interim President of the Republic to formulate a request to ECOWAS and the United Nations without delay, with a view to the deployment of an ECOWAS task force to support the Malian army in its sovereign mission to defend its territory".
Regarding the situation in the north of the country, ECOWAS launched an "an urgent appeal to the international community to send emergency humanitarian aid to the population in northern Mali and to those people who have been displaced or are now refugees in other countries".
The leaders of the six states demanded that "the armed movements occupying the north of Mali facilitate humanitarian assistance operations carried out under the auspices of the international community".
"We will hold them responsible for any deterioration in the humanitarian situation in northern Mali," the Contact Group members said.
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