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UN insists Mali peacekeeping force must be renewed, without cuts1 minute read

“The presence of the mission remains crucial, and its mandate remains relevant, given the complexity of the challenges,” UN Secretary General Guterres said while addressing US concerns.

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United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres/AFP

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has insisted that the peacekeeping force in Mali must remain in the country, and at its current strength to provide security and support for local forces.

The response was contained in a report after Washington questioned its validity.

“The presence of the mission remains crucial, and its mandate remains relevant, given the complexity of the challenges,” Guterres said in the quarterly report recently submitted to the Security Council and seen by AFP on Wednesday.

“I therefore recommend that the mandate of MINUSMA be extended for another year, until 30 June 2021 at the current overall strength,” he added. 

The mandate for the force of more than 13,000 military and police personnel expires on June 30. The UN will vote on a resolution to extend MINUSMA on June 29.

For more than a year, the US — the largest financial contributor to the UN — has regularly questioned the validity of the mission, deemed ill-suited to the ongoing violence in the west African nation.

The semi-arid country is struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that erupted in 2012 and which has claimed thousands of military and civilian lives since.

Despite the presence of thousands of French and UN troops, the conflict has engulfed the center of the country and spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger. 

“The human rights and humanitarian situations remain of deep concern,” Guterres said.

He called for the implementation of a 2015 peace agreement to be accelerated. 

And he warned that allegations of human rights violations against defense and security forces must be investigated.

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ECOWAS Gives Condition For Lifting Mali’s Sanction

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will not lift economic sanctions it slammed on Mali following a coup five weeks ago, the bloc said on Friday.

ECOWAS had imposed strict sanctions, which aralysed the landlocked country’s economy, after the Aug. 18 coup that overthrew Ibrahim Boubacar Keita as president.

The 15-member regional bloc said the blockade will be lifted after a civilian prime minister has been nominated.

The sanctions “will be lifted when a civilian prime minister is named”, ECOWAS Commission President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou said on Friday.

The announcement came shortly after Mali’s new president, Colonel Bah N’Daou (retd), was sworn in at a ceremony in the capital Bamako

N’Daou, a former defence minister, was picked by the coup leader, Colonel Assimi Goita, to head a transitional government until elections are held.

The elections are expected to hold in 18 months.

N’daou, 70, took the oath of office in front of several hundred military officers, political leaders and diplomats. Col Goita was sworn in as vice president during a ceremony in the capital Bamako.

Speaking at the swearing-in ceremony, the new president said: “The charter is my guidebook.

“Mali has given me everything. I am happy to be its submissive slave, willing to do everything for it to return to full constitutional legality, with elected authorities, legitimate representatives.

“The transition period which begins will not dispute any international undertaking by Mali, nor the agreements signed by the government.”

N’daou, who also served as defence minister in 2014 and previously headed the air force, has been described by former colleagues as “principled”.

In his inaugural address, he said he would crack down on graft, one of the main complaints against Keita’s government, and stamp out abuses of civilians by the armed forces.

Besides fearing that the coup could undermine their own power, presidents in the wider Sahel region are concerned prolonged uncertainty could jeopardise a joint campaign against Islamist militants centred in northern and central Mali.

A previous coup in Mali in 2012 helped hasten the fall of the desert north to al Qaeda-linked militants, forcing a French intervention the following year to drive them back.

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U.S Claims $907M Aid to African Nations in 2020

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The U.S Secretary of State Michael Pompeo says the United States provided humanitarian assistance worth close to $907m to countries in Africa.

Pompeo, in a statement on Friday made available on the African Regional Media Hub, noted that the US provided nearly $152m to countries in the Sahel region as humanitarian assistance.

The countries in the Sahel region include Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Mali.

The U.S at the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting also announced $108 million as humanitarian assistance for the people of South Sudan, and people of South Sudanese descent in neighboring countries.

Pompeo said the funding includes nearly $67 million from the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration as well as more than $85 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance.

Pompeo added that significant gaps in meeting humanitarian needs, in addition to environmental concerns such as major flooding across the region, were further heightened during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our assistance will provide critical protection, livelihoods, shelter, essential healthcare, emergency food assistance, safe drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene services for refugees, internally displaced people, and vulnerable host communities.

Pompeo is of the opinion that the United States remains the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance, both in the Sahel region and globally.

“We appreciate contributions from donors to date, but recognise the significant needs that remain and call on current and new donors to make new contributions or to fulfill existing pledges to make this life saving assistance possible.

Today at the UN General Assembly High-Level Meeting, `A Dialogue with the World’s Top Ten Donors on Global Humanitarian Needs’, hosted by the United States, we announced nearly $108 million in humanitarian assistance for the people of South Sudan, including South Sudanese in neighboring countries.

“This funding includes almost $97million from the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, and more than $11million from the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.

“It brings the total U.S. humanitarian assistance for response, including refugees and those affected by conflict and natural disasters, to nearly $907 million in Fiscal Year 2020 alone.

“… and close to $5.5 billion since the start of the crisis in 2014, including more than $64 million in supplemental humanitarian assistance to support the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the region,” Pompeo said.

He added that heavy rains, fighting between armed groups, food insecurity, a deteriorating economic situation, and the COVID-19 pandemic have all compounded an already dire humanitarian crisis in South Sudan.

The U.S. humanitarian assistance provided emergency food assistance, health care services, access to safe drinking water and sanitation, as well as assistance to survivors of gender-based violence in South Sudan.

According to him, U.S. humanitarian assistance also provides life-saving activities to the nearly 2.2 million South Sudanese refugees in neighboring countries, most of whom are women and children, and to local host communities sheltering refugees.

He said the U.S. also provided country-wide support for the UN Humanitarian Air Service to transport humanitarian workers and relief supplies.

The secretary of state said that in the response to the humanitarian crisis in South Sudan, the U.S. “supports the operations of a network of nearly 30 non-governmental organisations, including faith-based organisations, and international organisations.”

He listed some of the organisations supported by the U.S. government as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Children’s Fund, and the World Food Programme.

Others are he identified are the International Organisation for Migration, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Pompeo said the U.S. remained the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance, both in South Sudan and globally.

`We will continue to be catalyst for international response to alleviate the suffering of the people of South Sudan.

“We appreciate contributions from donors to date but recognise the significant needs that remain and call on current and new donors to make new contributions or to fulfill existing pledges to make this life saving,” Pompeo said.

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BREAKING: Mali Transition President Bah N’daou Sworn In

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Mali’s has a new president five weeks after the overthrow of Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta.

Former Defence Minister Bah Ndaou, aged 70, was hand picked by the coup leader, Colonel Assimi Goita, to head a transitional government until elections, which are expected in 18 months.

Same Col. Goita will be his vice-president.

The appointment of a civilian president is a condition for the Economic Community of West African States – ECOWAS – to lift the sanctions it imposed after the coup.

ECOWAS considers the appointment of Mali’s interim president and vice president a step towards normalising life in the country after the recent coup.

The head of ECOWAS Delegation and former Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, disclosed this on Friday in Mali.

The military junta responsible for the coup in Mali, earlier this week appointed former Defence Minister Ba N’Daou as the transition president and Col. Assimi Goita as vice president.

They will both serve for 18 months before a new government is established.

“Ahead of Friday’s scheduled inauguration of the leaders of Mali’s transition government, the Ecowas mediation team today met with some stakeholders including Mr. Bah Ndaou, President-Designate and Col. Assimi Goita, President of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) and Vice President-Designate, both of who will be taking the oath of office at the official ceremony.

“We are optimistic that this event will signal the beginning of the return to normalcy in Mali,” Goodluck Jonathan had written on Twitter on Thursday.

On Aug. 18, the military coup in Mali played out near the capital of Bamako and resulted in resignation of then – President Ibrahim Keita and his government.

The coup leaders established the CNSP, a governing body, until the transition government takes power.

Earlier in September, the 15-nation ECOWAS bloc urged the junta to appoint members of government for a transitional period until Sept. 23, saying it would otherwise impose a full embargo on the country.

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