By David Lewis
DAKAR (Reuters) – Mali’s junta said on Friday it would resist any deployment of West African soldiers in the country and treat foreign forces sent there under a regional plan as “the enemy”.
The comments came a day after regional bloc ECOWAS said it would send troops to Mali and Guinea-Bissau to tackle the aftermath of coups that, in the case of Mali, has left more than half the country in rebel hands.
“We will not accept any ECOWAS soldiers on our territory. This is non-negotiable. Any soldier who comes will be seen as the enemy,” Bakary Mariko, a spokesman for Mali’s CNRDRE junta, told Reuters by telephone.
Mariko accused ECOWAS – which called for elections within a year, ordered the military back to barracks and threatened military figures with sanctions if there was further meddling in politics – of going beyond its mandate.
He said the regional body need only provide Mali’s army with logistics to help it defeat separatist and Islamists rebels now controlling the north: “We have the men.”
While Guinea-Bissau has suffered from chronic instability, Mali had enjoyed 20 years of civilian rule before soldiers ousted the president on March 22 over complaints of his handling of a northern rebellion.
Taking advantage of the chaos after the Mali coup, a mix of separatist and Islamist rebels then seized the northern two-thirds of the country, carving out a zone experts fear is a haven for al Qaeda cells and international criminal gangs.
Mali has said it is ready for dialogue but with Mali’s army in tatters after the lightening rebel advance, analysts and diplomats say it will take both time and outside support to put any form of pressure on the rebel forces. Read more…