By Adama Diarra and David Lewis
BAMAKO/DAKAR (Reuters) – Regional leaders will join international organisations in Bamako on Friday to try to narrow their differences over whether al Qaeda-linked Islamists in the north of Mali should be dislodged via military intervention or a more gradual political approach.
Mali remains paralysed by a twin crisis with the leadership in Bamako still divided since a March coup that toppled the president and accelerated a rebel take-over of the north of the country, now firmly under Islamist control.
But regional and international efforts to deal with the situation, which has created a safe haven for Islamists and international criminal gangs, have been hampered by divisions over how to help.
Expectations for Friday’s meeting are therefore low and progress will be measured in terms of whether participants can sustain or improve the momentum of talks rather than come up with a concrete plan of action.
The United Nations Security Council last week gave African leaders 45 days to draw up a plan for military intervention to retake control of the north.
With six hostages held by the Islamists and fearful of an attack on home soil, former colonial power France is eager for military action. Some West African leaders who worry that Mali’s conflict will spill over into their own largely fragile states also favour military action.
But diplomats warn such intervention is months away and say there is still no agreement over whether an election should be held to replace Mali’s caretaker government before a military operation takes place.
Public statements by France, the African Union and other officials ahead of the meeting have set the bar low, calling for consensus and coordination. Read more…