ECOWAS defence chiefs have called for an effective cooperation and coordination to ensure a seamless transformation of the African-led International Mission in Mali (AFISMA) into a UN field operation.
According to the ECOWAS Commission Wednesday, they made the call under the aegis of the ECOWAS Committee of Chief of Defence Staff (CCDS), which ended its extraordinary meeting in Yamoussoukro, Cote d’Ivoire, Tuesday.
The two-day meeting, which discussed modalities for the transformation of the mission, recommended that regional cooperation should be strengthened in the area of intelligence and information sharing, while troops-contributing countries should equip their staff as planned and continue their deployment.
The AFISMA mission, comprising troops from ECOWAS member states and Chad, is expected to be strengthened under a force generation plan discussed at the Yamoussoukro meeting.
The transformation of AFISMA, tentatively planned to take off by July 2013, envisages a troops’ strength of 11,200 and 1,440 police officers for the robust assignment under the aegis of the UN to rid Mali of terrorism and criminal insurgency and also to restore the country’s territorial integrity with support for the national armed forces.
The Yamoussoukro meeting, a follow-up to the 14-16 March 2013 meeting between AFISMA Headquarters and a UN technical team in Bamako, Mali, was briefed by the AFISMA Force Commander, Maj.-Gen. Shehu Abdoulkadir, the Commander of the French SERVAL operation in Mali, Gen. Gregoire De Saint Quentin and the Commander of the ECOWAS Mission in Guinea-Bissau, Col. Gnibanga Barro.
The UN military adviser on peace keeping, Lt.-Gen. Babacar Gaye, also made a presentation on the standard requirements for UN operations, while another UN official, Mrs. Kathryn Jones, discussed the UN policy on Human Rights protection, highlighting the UN policy against forces that violate human rights.
On Guinea-Bissau, the regional defence chiefs called for the integration of civilian and military actions in ECOMIB and the urgent inspection of troops and materials on ground, while ECOWAS should fulfill its commitments to troop-contributing countries.
The meeting also recommended that an ECOWAS technical team should visit Guinea Bissau for a technical assessment for the deployment of the naval component of the mission.
While closing the meeting on behalf of Cote d’Ivoire’s Defence Minister, Gen. Paul Kofi Kofi, CCDS Chairman Gen. Soumaila Babayoko reiterated his call at the opening ceremony that all hands must be on deck with sustained international engagement to rid Mali of the dangerous scourge of terrorism and criminality, threatening not only the country but the region and the rest of the world.
The Chadian Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Brahim Sehid Mahamat, and the ECOWAS Special Representative in Mali, Mr. Aboudou Cheaka Toure, also attended the meeting.