zaterdag 1 februari 2014

Mali in de pers (feb. 2014)

Op deze pagina citaten uit de internationale pers (mostly in English) over ontwikkelingen in Mali in 2014. De focus ligt deze maand: op honger in de regio, gesprekken met toearegs door buurlanden en VN, andere deelnemers aan de militaire activiteiten in Mali, winning van goud etc.
Meer algemene en al breed gerapporteerde kwesties worden niet opgenomen. Waar mogelijk is een link toegevoegd.

Eerder verschenen Mali in de pers:
januari, maart, april, May, JuneJuly,

28 Feb.

[Presenter] The commemoration of Nigeria's centenary was marked by a conference on peace, security, and development in Africa. During the conference, France pledged to train 20,000 soldiers for Africa every year. This announcement was made by French president, Francois Hollande, who said the purpose is to enable Africa to better ensure its own security.
France said to train 20,000 African troops every year - Text of report by Malian state-owned ORTM TV on 28 February (via BBC Monitoring Africa, March 2, 2014).

The Algerian army seized 10 Katyusha rockets, 17 surface-to-air Strela rockets, and other types of rockets, in addition to two four-wheel-drive vehicles that were carrying armed men and smugglers. Efforts are under way to identify them.
Speaking to Al-Hayat, a security source dismissed reports that the weapons were destined for northern Mali. The source said that the available information refers to an armed Islamic group that demands independence of the south. The source meant the Movement of the Sons of the South for Islamic Justice. Abdessalam Termoun succeeded the previous leader of this movement, Ben Shanab. Termoun appeared in a video footage a few days ago in which he asserted that the movement will continue its activity.
Army seizes rockets destined for `terrorist' groups in southern Algeria, Al-Hayat website, London, in Arabic 28 Feb 14 , (via BBC Monitoring Middle East – Political, February 28, 2014 Friday)


The Mauritanian National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) has said that it rejects the conclusions reached by sessions held in recent weeks in the Malian capital Bamako, which were brokered by a delegation from the UN Security Council, Mauritanian independent news agency Al-Akhbar website reported on 28 February.
According to the report, a leader from the MNLA told Al-Akhbar that "the movement rejects the proposals put forward recently to assemble fighters in specific locations, and also categorically rejects the methods and programme adopted for it".
"Overall, nothing obliges us [to abide by] what emerged from the sessions in Bamako. We participated in the workshops at the request of the international community and its delegation", the report quoted its MNLA source as saying, adding that their goal in participating was "to put forward our point of view to the regional and international parties present at the meeting".
Mauritanian Azawad group "rejects UN-brokered proposals" following talks in Mali, Al-Akhbar website in Arabic 1646 gmt 28 Feb 14 (via BBC Monitoring Africa - Political)

27 Feb.

Commando’s klaar voor Mali

De Nederlandse Special Operations Land Task Group (SOTG) ‘Scorpion’ hield vorige week in de Marnewaard een eindoefening. Die was ter voorbereiding op de missie in Mali. De eerste lichting commando’s staat nu klaar om in Afrika inlichtingen te verzamelen voor de VN-missie MINUSMA.
Tegen een passend decor werden de operators voor de laatste keer aan alle denkbare situaties onderworpen. Zo waren er kapotte voertuigen, logistieke problemen en geprekken met quasi lokale leiders. Ook de planningsskills en zelfredzaamheid van de mannen werd uitgeprobeerd. Belangrijk, want de specialisten opereren ook ver uit de buurt van het basiskamp in Gao.


Tijdens de eindoefening oefende de SOTG in de organieke bezetting. Die bestaat uit 70 operators aan wie een 81 mm mortiersectie is toegevoegd. De uitbreiding omvat verder EOD- en EOV-personeel (Elektronische Oorlogsvoering) én verkenners met Fennek verkenningsvoertuigen. De ondersteuning is van groot belang bij vooral langeafstandsverkenningen.

[Announcer] A vehicle belonging to the Belgium-based Medicins du Monde blasted off a landmine a few metres from the approaches to the Kidal Airport in the northern part of Mali at midday on this Wednesday [26 February].
The driver and his passenger, who is the coordinator of the NGO in Kidal, were injured. According to the governor, an investigation has been launched into the incident. Adama Kamissoko added that the investigations would make it possible for knowing whether the explosive device was laid in the last few hours or not.
Landmine blast injures two aid workers in northern Mali, Radio France Internationale, Paris, in French 1830 gmt 26 Feb 14 (BBC Monitoring Africa – Political, February 27, 2014)


[Reporter] The People's Republic of China has donated to Mali 12bn FCFA. The second agreement concerns a 4bn FCFA loan. These amounts will serve to finance priority projects which would be determined by our government and carried out to serve the well-being of the Malian people.
[Cao Zhong Ming, China's ambassador to Mali] The Chinese cooperation has since targeted the many socioeconomic fields and the urgent needs of the people of Mali. Thus, these two amounts will be allocated to projects agreed upon by the two sides.
[Reporter] In addition to the donation granted by China, the ministry of foreign affairs and international cooperation notes with satisfaction the constant contribution of this country within the framework of security stabilization of Mali.
[Zaahabi Ould Sidi Mohamed. Mali's minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation] In addition to the numerous forms of humanitarian aid, China participates also in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali of which the first contingent of 500 men has already been in our country since 16 January, 2014 in Bamako. No socioeconomic development field in Mali has been overlooked by the Chinese cooperation.
[Reporter] For half a century China has supported the efforts of our country in development sectors. Already, several projects of Sino-Malian cooperation are under way, including, Kabala campus, Bamako-Segou road and a hydroelectric dam, among other things.
China gives Mali 33m dollars for socioeconomic projects, Text of report by Malian state-owned ORTM TV on 24 February (via BBC Monitoring Africa – Political, February 27, 2014).

26 Feb.

Observers put more than a question mark against the role played by Morocco in the countries located south-west of Algeria, where Algeria has always played a prominent role over decades in ending wars between the Bamako government and the rebel Azawad tribes in the north.

The questions posed concern the "dubious" visits paid by the Moroccan king and officials, which coincide with the political and security crisis in the kingdom, in addition to its limited revenue which means that Morocco is incapable of helping the Malian authorities to resolve their social and economic problems. Furthermore, Morocco does not have the diplomatic weight needed for resolving the sizeable problems faced by the Malian authorities with the armed Tuareg movements, which have been threatening separation from the central state in Bamako.

Observers have classified the "shuttle" tour which took Moroccan King Mohammed VI to Africa and the State of Mali as "not innocent", and that Mohammed VI wished to use it as a vehicle to impede the role Algeria has been playing to resolve the crisis in Mali.
Regarding Mohammed VI's tour, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee at the Council of the Nation, Ibrahim Boulehia, said: "The visit is within the framework of the special duties of heads of state and kings but the African states and peoples are aware of the nature of the visit and of the king's attempts."
Boulehia elaborated: "The African countries are aware of what Algeria, which was supportive when it was a colony and after gaining independence, can offer. Algeria does not buy, support or look for a foothold on the winding roads. We will continue to support just causes."
Regarding the possibility of Mohammed VI's impact on the role played by Algeria in Mali, considering it has been leading mediations between the factions in that country, Senator Ibrahim Boulehia dismissed the idea on the basis that Algeria's objectives and its relations with Mali are different from the kind of relations which Morocco sought to build. He said: "I do not believe that Mali is a commodity to be bought and sold by other countries, and there is no evidence that Algeria has instigated sedition and feud in Mali."

Regarding the timing of the tour, professor of political science and international relations at Ouargla University, Abdallah Belhabib, said: "In political science there is no such thing as innocent timing in decisions and internal and external agenda; everything has to be calculated."
In an interview with Echourouk, Belhabib pointed out that Algeria must not remain passive regarding the Moroccan moves, and said: "Algeria has strong relations with Mali, and we must not remain passive. It is essential that we make more effort in Mali and the sub-Saharan countries which are of strategic importance to Algeria."

Regarding motives for the tour, Abdallah Belhabib identified internal and external contexts which concerned the problems faced by Mohammed VI, as regards human rights in Western Sahara and the withdrawal of the Independence [Istiqlal] Party from Abdelilah Benkirane's government. He summarised the external motives as "regaining old allies or seeking new ones in addition to interfering with Algerian diplomacy".
Source: Echourouk El Youmi website, Algiers, in Arabic 24 Feb 14 (via BBC Monitoring Middle East – Political, February 26, 2014).


News: ASX-listed Oklo Resources has completed drilling at the Selingouma and Gombaly prospects located in its Dandoko Gold Project in West Mali. The drill programme was aimed at testing a 6 kilometre-long trending group of surface gold in soil anomalies to confirm gold mineralisation revealed by artisanal mining activities. The samples collected have been sent to SGS Laboratories for testing. The company intends to start planning for a second drilling round after receiving the drill assays from Selingouma.
Oklo Resources Completes Drilling At Dandoko, Business Monitor Online, February 26, 2014.

25 Feb.

[Presenter] Two mass graves have been found in Mali. Five bodies were found yesterday evening [23 February] near the Kati Military Camp [close to the capital Bamako], which used to be the HQ of the green berets, who were behind the March 2012 coup d'etat.
Searches are going to be continued today in this area, where a mass grave was found in December last year. Our correspondent Serge Daniel files the report.
[Daniel] The investigation judge, Yaya Karembe, led the team that made the discovery of two mass graves at the spot which is on the outskirts of Kati. Two bodies were found in the first of the graves. The three other bodies were found in the second one. They all died from torture and they were all dressed in military uniform with their hands and feet tied together.
An eyewitness said quote and unquote: it is unbearable. In addition to the bodies, the heads of dead crocodiles were found in one of the two mass graves. The question is whether it was a ritual sacrifice. This will be disclosed by the investigation.
The same investigation judge took part in the exhumation of 21 bodies in Kati, a town which is located about 15km from the Malian capital. They were all very probably red beret soldiers who were likely to have been killed in 2012 following the counter coup d'etat to overthrow the junta which was then at the helm of affairs in the country.
Twenty-five soldiers were arrested in connection with this case. They include Amadou Sanogo, who was at the time a captain and was later catapulted to the rank of a general. Searches are expected to continue to find other bodies this Monday [24 February]. Two deep wells that are located in the Kati area will be searched from top to bottom.
Bodies of five soldiers found in two mass graves near Malian capital, Source: Radio France Internationale, Paris, in French 0530 gmt 24 Feb 14 (via BBC Monitoring Africa – Political, February 25, 2014 Tuesday)
24 Feb.

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) A miner says that armed men closed a large salt mine in northern Mali by forcing more than 800 workers to leave.
Hama Ould El Hilla, a worker at the Taoudenie salt mine, said that eight men with AK-47 rifles arrived in a vehicle with a mounted gun and ordered the miners to leave.
Hilla, speaking on the telephone from Timbuktu, said about 200 of the miners arrived at Timbuktu, which is 750 kilometers (466 miles) south of the mine. He said the rest of the miners are traveling to Timbuktu.
He said the gunmen did not identify themselves. Northern Mali has had considerable trouble from Tuareg and Arab separatists. In 2012 northern Mali was occupied by Tuareg and Islamic extremist rebels who were eventually chased away by French troops.

23 Feb.

Bamako, Feb 23, 2014 (MAP) - Moroccan Alliances Group and Malian Ministry of Defence and War Veterans signed, on Saturday [22 February] in Bamako, an intention agreement to develop the department's property heritage through real estate development and the construction of buildings and military barracks.
This agreement was signed by Malian minister of defence and war veterans Soumaylou Boubeye Maiga and president of the Alliances Group Alami Lazraq.
The agreement was signed on the sidelines of the visit by HM King Mohammed VI in Mali, first leg of a tour that will take the sovereign to Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea Conakry and Gabon.
Under the document, the two parties are committed to improving the living conditions of Malians, especially the armed and security forces. The Alliances Group also pledges to create job opportunities and subcontract a part of its activities to Malian SMEs.
Moroccan Group, Malian Defence Ministry sign agreement to develop department, Text of report in English by state-owned, government controlled Moroccan news agency MAP website, February 23, 2014 (via BBC Monitoring Middle East - Political)
Bamako, Feb 23, 2014 (MAP) - Mali provided, through its president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, its support for the serious and credible efforts by Morocco to settle the artificial conflict over the Moroccan Sahara, according to a joint statement issued on Sunday [23 February] following the official visit by HM King Mohammed VI to the Republic of Malian.
Regarding the Sahara issue, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita welcomed the serious and credible efforts by the Kingdom of Morocco to move forward towards a peaceful, negotiated and final settlement for this issue, said the statement.
The support shown by Mali for efforts continuously made by Morocco is an acknowledgment of the soundness of the national cause, whose validity is deeply-rooted in history, Bamako is well placed to testify to it given its geographic location and its knowledge of the region's history.
It is also a recognition of the relevance of the innovative approach that Morocco has adopted at the United Nations level to address this conflict fabricated by parties blinded by hegemonic designs in the region and which seek to undermine the territorial integrity of other countries.
Mali backs Morocco's serious, credible efforts to settle Sahara issue, Text of report in English by state-owned, government controlled Moroccan news agency MAP website, February 23, 2014 (via

BBC Monitoring Middle East - Political)


Bir Lehlu, February 23, 2014 (SPS) -The Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied the allegations reported this week in the Moroccan media about the presence of a delegation of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic in Mali in coincidence with the visit of the king of Morocco to Bamako, in a statement issued Sunday [23 February].
The statement affirmed that these allegations were completely unfounded and were fabricated by the Moroccan intelligence apparatus, adding the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic did not have any delegation or envoy during this period in the brotherly Republic of Mali.
The purpose of this kind of faked information is creating confusion. It won't hurt the credibility of the Saharawi cause in the African continent, said the source.
Saharan ministry denies Moroccan media allegations about delegation in Mali, Text of report in English by official news agency of the Saharan Arab Democratic Republic (SPS) website, February 23, 2014 Sunday (via BBC Monitoring Middle East - Political)

22 Feb.

Bamako, Feb 22, 2014 (MAP) - HM King Mohammed VI, accompanied by Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, launched, on Saturday [22 February] in Diago town, thirty kilometres from Bamako, the construction works of a cement plant.
Moroccan king, Malian leader launch cement plant project, Text of report in English by state-owned, government controlled Moroccan news agency MAP website, February 22, 2014 (BBC Monitoring Middle East - Political)
21 Feb.

Armed groups and the government have signed an initial plan, during U.N.-led talks in Bamako, to create nearly 40 barracks around Timbuktu, Gao and Kidal. The Associated Press Wednesday saw a copy of the document. Ambeiri Ag Rhissa of the Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad said this was the beginning of a solution.
Attacks continue in north Mali.
Mali rebels agree to put members inbarracks, The New Zealand Herald, February 21, 2014

20 Feb.

Along with extending the Afghanistan mission, the troop boost in the north African country was met with overwhelming support in the Bundestag. Some 526 parliamentarians voted in favor of the move, with 61 against. The opposition to the increase came from the Bundestag's Left Party faction.
The next contingent of Bundeswehr troops in Mali is to join the joint German-French military brigade in the country. Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande announced the Franco-German operation in Mali during a recent meeting in Paris.
According to the defense ministry, there are 104 German troops currently in Mali. Their primary task is training and educating local government soldiers, as well as advising Malian leaders and defense ministry officials. The Bundeswehr also provides medics.
German Military Approves Troop Increase for Mali, Deutsche Welle (Bonn), February 20, 2014

18 Feb.

Voertuigen bestemd voor de Nederlandse militairen die in Mali op missie gaan, vertrekken op woensdag 19 februari vanuit Gilze Rijen en Rucphen naar de Groningse Eemshaven. De witte jeeps, trucks, pantserwagens en brandweerauto mét UN-aanduiding bieden tijdens de reis naar het noorden een opvallende aanblik. Vanuit de Eemshaven vertrekken de voertuigen aanstaande week per schip naar Ivoorkust of Senegal. Vanaf daar gaat de reis over de weg verder naar Mali.

Vanuit Rucphen vertrekken morgen vanaf 08.00 uur zeven diepladers met viertonners en pantserwagens van de types Fennek en Bushmaster naar de Eemshaven. Twee uur later starten eveneens de colonnes vanuit Gilze-Rijen, met in totaal 28 voertuigen en zeven aanhangers. Tussen 12.00 en 14.00 uur worden de zware transporten verwacht in het hoge noorden.

Komende week gaan de transportmiddelen aan boord van een groot transportschip voor een reis van twee à drie weken naar Afrika. Na aankomst en ontladen in Abidjan of Dakar (nu nog niet bekend) wacht nog een reis over land van enkele weken naar de eindbestemming: het Nederlandse kamp in Gao, Mali. Medio april moet het rollend materieel in ieder geval Gao hebben bereikt.

Voor meer informatie over de voertuigverplaatsingen van morgen kunt u contact opnemen met LTKOL Jos van der Leij, J.vd.Leij[AT], 06-1291408206-12914082.

Materieel missie Mali naar Eemshaven, 18 februari 2014 — 15:42

15 Feb.

[Presenter] There was tension in Mali yesterday [14 February] in the organization of the preparatory meeting for peace negotiations between the government and northern armed groups. Many of them were expected to take part in the discussions in Bamako over the last two days, but a majority of the Arab Movement for the Azawad [MAA] shut out some of the others, saying that some of their representatives are personalities who serve the Malian state's interests.
However, the discussions continued with the other groups taking part. Yet the other groups share the criticism of the MAA. Our correspondent David Bache filed the following report.
[Bache] A representative of the Tuareg MNLA [National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad] rebel movement, Ambery Ag Rhissa, asserted quote and unquote: they are right. Some of the representatives of the Arab Movement for the Azawad are not rebels, but Malian state officials. We support the move of the protesters, but we believe that a solution will be found.
The MNLA said it was in solidarity with them, but rejected the empty chair policy. Just like the MNLA, the Azawad High Council believes in dialogue progressing. This does not prevent Col Hassan Almeidy from stressing his position. The Malian state must honour the Ouagadougou Accord, which was signed in June last year. There was no question of laying down the weapons before negotiating.
[Almeidy] There is no question of abandoning the weapons before the final agreement. That is very clear. It was stipulated in the agreements. Until it is proved to the contrary, we are regulated by an agreement. Pledges are pledges. We all signed it. We are obliged today to make it work.
[Bache] Abderramane Maiga is one of the vice-presidents of the CMFPR [Coordination of Patriotic Movements and Forces for Resistance], which is a group of self-defence militias close to the Malian state. This is the reason for its great confidence in the fulfilment of its demands on the confinement of some fighters to barracks. He stated thus:
[Maiga] The sites have not been identified formally. Therefore, it is going to be necessary that we make proposals for the cantonment sites. From that point, we are going to struggle to see what is necessary to do on cantonment measures, what we need in terms of resources because this confinement to barracks should be effective because we would like to be confined to barracks close to our various people.
[Bache] The discussions are expected to continue during the weekend more officially.
Section of Malian Tuareg rebels accuse colleagues of working for government, Radio France Internationale, Paris, in French 0530 gmt 15 Feb 14 (via BBC Monitoring Africa - Political)


[Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt] We have discussed ways to help Mali. Several years ago, we established an agency for aid to development. We are here to provide assistance to the UN system and the EU. We will explore the possibilities in order to do better in our traditional assistance. I was really very impressed by the initiatives adopted and progress made in the recovery of the rule of law and state's authority. We are exploring the ways and means to really provide support in peacekeeping.
Malian president discusses peacekeeping support with Swedish foreign minister, ORTM TV, Bamako, in French 2000 gmt 15 Feb 14 (via BBC Monitoring Africa - Political)


Le cantonnement, a ajouté le ministre, sera immédiatement suivi du désarmement, de la démobilisation et de la réintégration des ex-combattants des groupes armés, sous l’œil vigilant bien entendu de la Mission internationale des Nations unies pour la stabilisation du Mali (Minusma).

Mohamed El Omrani, président du Mouvement arabe de l’Azawad (MAA), branche non armée qui est fidèle à la République du Mali, d’ajouter que cet atelier a été une occasion de débattre profondément beaucoup de problèmes mais aussi et surtout, de tous les accords précédents signés et de toutes assises tenues pour la restauration de la paix. Aussi, la rencontre a permis à chaque partie de faire des propositions sur le cantonnement et le désarmement des groupes armés. «La leçon que je tire de cette rencontre est que si on veut la paix, il faut cantonner et désarmer les groupes armés », a-t-il déclaré.
Par Malijet, Sortie de crise : larencontre préparatoire du processus de cantonnement des groupesarmés s’achève sur des bonnes notes, 15 Février 2014


BAMAKO, Mali (AP) A Malian government spokesman says the country"s former defense minister has been criminally charged in connection with the slayings of 21 soldiers who had opposed a coup leader"s rise to power.
Spokesman Mahamane Baby said Friday that Gen. Yamoussa Camara was accused of being complicit in the murders of the soldiers, which took place back in 2012 not long after a coup leader seized control of Mali.
The killings are believed to have taken place in April 2012, when forces loyal to the ousted president attempted to grab back power from coup leader Amadou Haya Sanogo.
In December, a mass grave containing 21 skulls was discovered near the military barracks that had served as Sanogo"s headquarters. Sanogo already has been charged with complicity in the kidnapping of his fellow soldiers.
Mali ex-defense minister charged insoldier deaths, The New Zealand Herald, February 15, 2014

14 Feb.

Canada-based Iamgold has confirmed a strike over redundancy pay packages at its joint venture (JV) Sadiola and Yatela mines in Mali. The strike comes in the wake of the company halting production at Sadiola mine's FE3 pit, with mining operations now focussing on the FE4 and Tambali pits to extract a higher-grade ore, reports Mining weekly. The company's JV partner at the two mines, AngloGold Ashanti, is in talks with the employees and their representatives including the National Section of Mines and Industries to reach a solution suited to all the stakeholders.
Iamgold Confirms Strike At Mali Mines, Business Monitor Online, February 14, 2014

Gezondheid Mali-gangers streng bewaakt
Malariamuggen, met leisha-maniasis besmette zandvliegen, giftige schorpioenen en bijtgrage slangen. De kwartiermakers in Mali kunnen hun lol op. “Toch vormen de extreme temperatuurschommelingen en het fijnstof het grootste gevaar voor de gezondheid”, vertelt adviseur Hygiëne Preventie Gezondheidszorg (HPG) eerste luitenant Robert de Vries.
ELNT Wouter Helders, 'Monitoren mamba’s en malariamuggen,' Defensiekrant Jaargang 1, Nummer 3, 14 februari 2014

13 Feb.

Morocco and the European Union have a partnership that is unique in the region, and those ties should now be leveraged to boost security, the EU ambassador said Monday (February 10th) in Casablanca.
"It is in our interests to work together to find ways of protecting the region against the terrorist threat," Ambassador Rupert Joy said at a panel discussion on relations between Europe and the kingdom.
"In relation to all the insecurity problems in the Sahel, northern Mali and Libya, Morocco is a strategic partner of the European Union," Joy said at the EU embassy event.
Hassan Benmehd, Morocco, EU Partner Against Terrorism, Magharebia, February 13, 2014


Part of much longer report: But Sanogo and his followers are not just accused of killing Red Berets. In September 2012, a mutiny was quenched when several of Sanogo's former supporters revolted against him.
Thirty Green Berets were arrested and then released, but at least eight men have disappeared.
Three bodies were found a month later in October 2012. But the five other men are still missing and their families are still waiting for answers to see if their brothers, sons and husbands are alive.
Nantoume Fatoumata Doumbia's brother, Lassine Keita, disappeared while drinking in a bar in Kati in September 2012. His body was found a few days later.
"I knew what happened. The day after the mutiny, Sanogo said that he will kill all the ones that rose up [against him]," she tells IPS calmly.
Waiting for Justice for Mali's MissingSoldiers, Inter Press Service (Johannesburg), February 13, 2014


AngloGold rises despite Mali strike
MINING AngloGold rose 3.5% to R185.50 yesterday. The firm said its Yatela and Sadiola mines in Mali were operating normally even as about 2,000 workers employed by contractors started a strike. & At this stage, production at both mines is proceeding as normal& with & a minority of employees& taking part in the walkout that started on Monday, AngloGold said yesterday. Bloomberg
BUSINESS BRIEF, Business Day (South Africa), February 13, 2014

12 Feb.

The 'Flamme de la Paix' monument lies on the northwestern outskirts of Timbukutu, Mali. There, on 27 March 1996, hundreds of weapons were symbolically destroyed, and representatives from the Malian government and Tuareg rebel movements promised to promote peace and reconciliation in a region wracked by bitter conflict.
But 16 years later, the country descended into its worst crisis ever. Mali's north, including Timbuktu, was overrun by both Tuareg separatists and Jihadists; the south witnessed a coup and the temporary collapse of the democratic system. The recovery process remains fragile.
Time to Rekindle Timbuktu's Flame, UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (Nairobi), February 12, 2014 Wednesday


AngloGold workers in Mali strike
MINESWorkers at AngloGold Ashanti's Sadiola and Yatela gold mines in Mali started a five-day strike yesterday, demanding better redundancy payouts, Alfouseyni Toure, secretary-general of the civil engineering, mines and energy labour confederation Synacome, said yesterday. By midday, 70% and 95% of workers had downed tools at Sadiola and Yatela respectively.  
Business Day (South Africa), February 12, 2014 


Tamanrasset, where the flight had departed from, lies in the far south of Algeria, near the border with Mali, and is the main base for the country's southern military operations.
Extra troops and equipment have been stationed there in recent months as part of efforts to beef up surveillance of Algeria's frontiers with Mali and Libya, following a deadly hostage-taking by Islamist militants at a desert gas plant in January last year.
Lone survivor found as Algeria plane crash kills 77; Authorities say 77 people died when a military plane crashed in the east of the country,, February 12, 2014


It all got off to a bad start, in spring 2012, from Washington's viewpoint: a Socialists had been elected to the Elysee [French presidency], and one, moreover, who had proclaimed during his campaign his intention of withdrawing French troops from Afghanistan as soon as possible. Almost two years after, the atmosphere has changed entirely: Obama's America has rolled out the red carpet for Francois Hollande, its French friend. This return to favour is due chiefly to the strategic cooperation between the two countries, mainly in the Sahel. But also, probably, to something of a dirty conscience on America's part following last summer's episode in connection with Syria.
The turning point occurred in Mali last year. The Obama administration appreciated Paris' resolute engagement in the antiterrorist struggle in the Sahel and made this known by supporting Operation Serval. For instance, the United States provided the French with in-flight refueling aircraft, logistical transport, and intelligence. It subsequently agreed to sell them to observation drones right away, and these were deployed at their base in Niamey, Niger, alongside the American aircraft already deployed there.
Static - Paris would now like to capitalize on this support by encouraging the Americans to formalize a partnership in the Sahel to prevent the jihadist networks from re-emerging elsewhere, in a area that is difficult to control. During a preparatory visit to Washington at the end of January, Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced the establishment of a "high level strategic analysis group" focusing on that region, though this is still "embryonic," according to a source close to the matter in Washington.
This, because Paris is engaged in a long-term strategy to curb the terrorist threat in the Sahel. According to plans drawn up by the Defence Ministry in Paris, 3,000 men will be permanently stationed in the region, from Mauritania to Chad via Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. The key idea is to move on from the present somewhat static presence to the establishment of more streamlined and therefore more nimble footholds, which will make it possible to adapt to what is a highly mobile cross-border threat. "The United States is still to a large extent committed to a country by country approach," one analyst in Washington commented. "The French want to encourage Washington to adopt a more regional approach." But by involving the Americans more, France also wants to share the burden - an expression generally used by Washington... with respect to its European allies.
Thomas Hofnung and Lorraine Millot, French commentary identifies limits to "military honeymoon" with USA, Liberation on 12 February 2014 (via BBC Monitoring Europe - Political)

11 Feb.

Aid workers in northern Mali who have been missing since Saturday have been kidnapped by an Islamist terrorist group.
The four-person Red Cross team and a veterinarian from another aid organisation were seized, along with their vehicle, by militants from the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao).
According to a spokesman for the group, all five of the captured aid workers "are alive and in good health". Alexis Heeb, a spokesman for the Red Cross, said that all five are Malian citizens.
"Thanks to God we seized a 4x4 [vehicle] of the enemies of Islam with their accomplices," Yoro Abdoulsalam, a spokesman said, confirming it was the Red Cross team reported missing in recent days.
Tony Bonnici, Red Cross workerscaptured by Mali jihadists,, February 11, 2014
10 Feb

N'Djamena (Alwihda Info) - Chadian President Idriss Deby has agreed to the extension of the French military base. The new redeployment of the French military presence concerns strengthening its troops in Chad with 300 new soldiers with a new extension to the north of the country. This involves strengthening the military presence at Faya and creating a new base at Zouar. To have a watchful eye on what is happening in southern Libya to prevent any attempt to destabilize the border belt in Africa, is the objective of the new French strategy.
"Chad: France Opens Military Base at Zouar to Monitor Libya", Alwihda website in French 10 Feb 14, (via BBC Monitoring Africa - Political)


Conventional arms: Mali Workshop on Small Arms, Light Weapons, 12-14 February
Mali’s National Commission for the Fight against the Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons and the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace and Disarmament in Africa (UNREC) are jointly organizing a workshop in Bamako, from 12 to 14 February, for the validation of the 2014-2018 National Action Plan to combat the proliferation and illicit trafficking of small arms and light weapons. Funded by Germany since December 2013, UNREC supports the National Commission’s development of Mali’s National Action Plan, which will guide the country’s small arms control activities for the period 2014-2018. The project includes the following activities:  visits to different regions of Mali to consult local stakeholders on the content of the National Action Plan; ensuring that the Plan meets international arms control standards and abides by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Convention on Small Arms and Light Weapons; a workshop to validate the 2014-2018 National Action Plan with the participation of all stakeholders involved in the fight against the proliferation of and illicit trafficking in small arms and light weapons; and the delivery of information technology equipment, as well as a vehicle to support the proper functioning of the National Commission on Small Arms in Bamako and other regions of Mali.
Workshop on Small Arms, Light Weapons,12-14 February, United Nations Press Release DC/3477 AFR/2811, 10 February 2014 (met dank aan Frank Slijper voor het doorgeven).


News: Minister for Interior Security General Sada Samaka has said that the Mouvement pour le Tawhîd et du Jihad en Afrique de l'Ouest (Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, MUJAO) was behind the killing of 31 Touaregs in an attack on February 7. Addressing Malian national television on February 9, he said that the attack took place somewhere near the town of Tamkoutat in northern Mali. MUJAO has not claimed responsibility for the attack. Although initial reports said that the killings were a result of ethnic clashes between the Touaregs and the Peuls, security sources now claim that they were used as a diversionary tactic by MUJAO to conduct suicide attacks on military installations.
Minister Claims MUJAO Killed 31 Touaregs, Business Monitor Online, February 10, 2014


Also, the Commander of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (MISMA), Major-General Shehu Usman Abdul Kadir, revealed that Nigeria alone accounts for at least 70 per cent of the illegal SALW circulating within the West African sub-region.
Nigeria; Too Dangerous to Wait, This Day (Lagos), February 10, 2014


The French Air Force is flying MQ-9 Reaper UAVs from Niger to back up special forces in northern Mali. On Jan. 30, Air Force Lt Col. Christophe Fontaine told journalists the two UAVs were filling the ISR mission “extremely well.”
Pierre Tran, Europe France Eyes King Air, Upgrades for C-130, Defense News, 10 February 2014


The EU is encouraging the constitution of a regional coordination platform between various countries in the Sahel region in a bid to promote more security. The procedures for setting up the platform will be decided in Bamako, Mali, in April. During a high-level meeting, held in Brussels on 6 February, the Secretary-General of the European External Action Service, Pierre Vimont, invited ministers of foreign affairs from the Sahel region to the second phase of the joint UN-African Union, EU-World Bank-African Development Bank strategy. Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Niger, Chad and other countries in the region discussed the ways in which a coordination platform could be implemented in the Sahel, which would aim to promote security and economic development. The meeting in Bamako in April will allow those present to agree on how to effectively implement this platform and to establish a technical secretariat.
SECURITY STRATEGY IN SAHEL, Europolitics (daily in English), February 10, 2014

9 Feb.

Soframe and Iveco won their first contract from France's Porteur Polyvalent Terrestre (PPT) programme in December 2010 with a France's defence procurement agency (DGA) order for 200 vehicles. The first vehicles were delivered in June 2013 and quickly saw service in Mali. So far, 80 PPTs have been delivered. Guillaume Belan, France orders 250 moreIveco PPT trucks, IHS Jane's Defence Weekly, 09 February 2014

[Presenter] Cattle rustling is also one of the causes of the acts of violence between the Peul and Tuareg communities in northeastern part of Mali over the last few days. This week, about 30 Imrad Tuaregs were killed near the town of Gao. The Peul were chased away in retaliation on Friday [7 February] to the border with Niger. Similar acts of violence broke out earlier between the two communities in the same area in November [2013]. That clash killed many people among the Tuaregs and at least about 50 among the Peul.
According to one of the leaders of the Peul community, Abdulaziz Souleymane, one of the problems is impunity of the cattle rustlers.
[Souleymane] There has never been any justice and even often the justice is powerless. This is because it is the wearers of uniform who indulge in such acts. The justice cannot act and therefore, the people have the feeling that they are left to their own devices and finally everybody was forced to look for weapons to defend themselves. [Passage omitted].
If the weapons are withdrawn from everybody, they will find it necessary to lay down the weapons. I would wish that the Peul community and the Tamashek community should meet to really bury the hatchet because it is not in the interest of anybody today to indulge in these inter-communal clashes especially that they are forced to live together.
[Presenter] That was Abdulaziz Souleymane, one of the leaders of the Peul communities in north-eastern Mali in an interview with our correspondent Christine Muratet.
Malian community leader calls for peace following clashes in northeast, Source: Radio France Internationale, Paris, in French 0430 gmt 9 Feb 14 (BBC Monitoring Africa - Political)


Anti-terrorism vigilance in [Malian capital] Bamako has been reinforced since yesterday evening. Several UN agencies staff and nationals from western countries have received instructions to avoid public places and security has been reinforced around UN agencies.
Anti-terrorism vigilance reinforced in Malian capital Source: Radio France Internationale, Paris, in French 0430 gmt 9 Feb 14 (via BBC Monitoring Africa - Political)

7 Feb.

[Remarks by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius at joint press conference with Malian Prime Minister Oumar Tatam Ly 7 February]
[Unidentified reporter] Minister, the situation is better in Mali but very bad in Libya. Some friends of France are calling for an international intervention, though I don't know in what form. One French military leader said that such an intervention would be the ideal solution. Is such an operation being envisaged, or could it be?
[Fabius] No. It's not Mali: it's Libya. The situation in Libya is difficult, and you're right to stress that, for whole range of reasons, and particularly for security reasons. But no military intervention is being envisaged, if that's what you're referring to, no.
However, in a few days' time in Rome there will be a conference, following other meetings, including a conference that took place in Paris last February. And we will examine what can be done to help our Libyan friends, and particularly Prime Minister Ali Zaydan.
All the neighboring countries, and more generally the major countries of the international community want stability in Libya. Libya is a great country by virtue of its territory, it is a potentially rich company, and, as you know, there is clearly a risk of terrorist groups becoming established in the South.
And our experience in Mali, and our experience now elsewhere shows us that a situation must not be allowed to fester. Indeed, we often discuss this both with our fellow permanent members of the Security Council -- I have in mind the Americans, the British, and the Russians - and also with neighbors and friends, whether Mali, Niger, Algeria, Tunisia, or Egypt.
So France's analysis is that we must strengthen Libya's stabilization. And, I repeat, with a view to the meeting in Rome in early March, I've been in touch with Prime Minister Zaydan to work on a number of ideas.
French foreign minister rules out intervention in Libya, Text of report by French Foreign Ministry website on 7 February, (via BBC Monitoring Europe - Political)

"The government would like to inform the national and international opinion that on 6 February, around Tamkoutak, in the Djebok [as heard] rural council situated some 140 km north east of Gao, a dozen of armed individuals ruthlessly gunned down about 30 people travelling on board two vehicles, burning one of the vehicles and highjacking the second one. In addition, on the same day and in the same area, a group of assailants attacked a third transport car, kidnapped and shot dwellers of a nomadic settlement.
About 30 killed in northern Mali shooting, Text of report by Malian state-owned ORTM TV on 7 February (via BC Monitoring Africa)


King Mohammed VI will be in Mali from 12 to 14 February 2014 for a state visit at the invitation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
On contacts with MNLA and struggle for influence in Mali by Algeria and Morocco.
Maliactu, website in French,  7 February 2014 


On state of 38 year old Malian army
Courant 2013, deux hélicoptères de l’armée malienne ont crashé en moins d’un mois prouvant les difficultés de gestion de la logistique de  cette unité. Le 13 mars 2013, un hélicoptère malien a heurté à sa descente à Diabaly  un pick up de la force Badenya tuant du coup un militaire. Quelques semaines après, soit le 12 avril 2013, un autre hélicoptère malien a crashé à une cinquantaine de kilomètres de Sévaré. Cinq pilotes maliens ont trouvé la mort.
Maliactu, Website in French, 7 February 2014

6 Feb.

We come back to Bamako where a conference on how to better counter the spread of Islamist ideology in Western Africa was launched today. The aim of the meeting is to develop strategies to foster sustainable peace and the security of the people of the sub-region
Mali hosts conference on strategies to counter Islamist ideology in West Africa, Excerpt from report by Malian state-owned ORTM TV on 6 February (via BBC Monitoring Africa - Political)


[Reporter] Concerning the situation in Kidal, the minister said that the German position is for Mali to be able to ensure its own security and disarmament of armed groups and reconciliation.
[Ursula von der Leyen, German defense minister] It is necessary that Mali is able to ensure its own security. We are very impressed with the president and his cabinet are working to unify the country and not only to disarm all armed groups in this country but also to reach reconciliation if necessary.
[Reporter] According to Mali's defense minister, the cooperation with Germany will help our country rebuild its military which should be able to ensure the sovereignty of the Malian state and contribute to regional and international stability.
Source: ORTM TV, Bamako, in French 2000 gmt 6 Feb 14 (via BBC Monitoring Africa)

News: Australian gold miner Papillon Resources has reported initial results from a drilling campaign at its Fekola gold project located in the West African country, Mali, reports proactive Papillon Reports Initial Drilling Results. The drilling hit likely gold deposits of 9 metres (m) at 2.34 grams per tonne gold (g/t) and 4 m at 4.11 g/t gold. The company aims to expand the resource base around Fekola project, with a focus on delineation of new open pittable resources. Papillon Reports Initial Drilling Results, Business Monitor Online, February 6, 2014
(...) The North Remains in Economic Crisis
But while the country's capital is experiencing a slow recovery, Mali's north still lacks economic opportunities and many are still living in extreme poverty, says Dedeou Traore, a member of parliament for the northern region of Niafunke.
"The economy is bad," Traore tells IPS. Northerners, whose livelihoods were largely dependent on subsistence agriculture, have lost everything.
Mali; Economic Crisis Plagues North, Inter Press Service (Johannesburg), February 6 2014


[Hofnung] French Chief of General Staff Edouard Guillaud recently cited the need for an international operation in southern Libya. What do you think about that?
[Hassoumi] We want such an intervention, and I would even say that we strongly encourage it. President Mahamadou Issoufou has said so several times. Now this idea is making headway in Paris, and we welcome the fact. This, because, since Operation Serval in Mali, southern Libya has become the main safe haven for terrorist groups in the region. Several thousand combatants -some 4,000, according to our information -have found refuge there. They have infrastructures comparable to those that French forces destroyed in northern Mali.
[Hofnung] Who could lead this operation?
[Hassoumi] Such a mission falls to the countries that carried out the intervention in Libya against Al-Qadhafi in 2011 -France and the United States. It is up to them to provide an after sales service. In any case, we cannot stand idly by. Southern Libya is a cancer that threatens to spread and that could among other things destabilize neighbouring Egypt.
[Hofnung] Is it affecting your own country's stability as well?
[Hassoumi] We're confronted with attempted incursions every day, but we've adopted the necessary measures. With the help of our French and American allies, we have our northern border under very close surveillance. And particularly the Salvador pass area, on the borders of Libya and Algeria, through which terrorists and smugglers - they are often the same - pass. With the help of neighbouring countries, we want to make it watertight.
[Hofnung] Are you requesting military aid to achieve this?
[Hassoumi] We already enjoy major aid in terms of intelligence and air support from our French and American partners. We don't need foreign troops on the ground: it's up to us to do that job. However, we do need financial support.
[Hofnung] Paris is redeploying its military presence in the Sahel belt. Would you accept a permanent French presence in northern Niger?
[Hassoumi] That's not necessary. The French and American forces are already on the ground, but for isolated missions. Furthermore, French elements provide security at the uranium mines operated by Areva.
Nigerien minister urges France, USA to lead military operation in south Libya, Source: Liberation, Paris, in French 6 Feb 14; p 9 (via BBC Monitoring Europe)


BERLIN (AP) The German government has paved the way to expand its military deployment in Mali, raising the number of soldiers who can serve on a training mission in the West African nation.
Chancellor Angela Merkel"s spokesman Steffen Seibert says her Cabinet decided Wednesday to raise the country"s maximum troop strength in Mali to 250 from the current 180. The decision requires parliamentary approval.
Germany currently has 104 troops in the European Union mission training Malian soldiers, and officials have said they want to step up that effort part of a cautious move toward a more active foreign-policy role by Merkel"s new government.
Germany paves way for expanded Mali mission, The New Zealand Herald, February 6, 2014

5 Feb.

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) welcomes the United Nations Security Council's call for Mali's government and rebel groups to resume talks, an MNLA member told Al-Jazeera on 5 February.
The Security Council called on Bamako and rebels to conclude talks as soon as possible, warning that failure to do so would radicalize fighters and undo fragile security gains.
Speaking in a phone interview, Mahmoud Aghali, a member of the MNLA political committee, said his group has always welcomed such international appeals, stressing that it has always been the side to respond to them since the start of the crisis two years ago.
He cited as example what he called the MNLA's a unilateral ceasefire after liberating the Azawad territory from the occupying army of Mali.
Having welcomed the UN call for resumption of talks, the group is now awaiting the response of the Malian government, he noted.
On the visit of the MNLA leader Bilal Ag Acherif to Morocco, he said it was in response to an invitation extended by King Mohammed VI whose country put forward a serious initiative to help find a solution to the problem and establish stability in the Sahel region.
Asked about the Algerian position, Aghali said Algeria has been long accustomed to dealing with the Mali dossier on its own, but the situation now has gone beyond that phase.
The onus is on all parties to the decades-long conflict to work together to find a solution
Now, Algeria seems to be upset over the Moroccan role, as reflected in its behaviour in the past two days, he said, citing the expulsion of an MNLA Political Bureau member from Algeria and what he called border harassment.
Mali rebel group welcomes UN call for resumption of peace talks Source: Al-Jazeera TV, Doha, in Arabic 2100 gmt 5 Feb 14


Mali experienced relatively rapid economic growth from 2000 to 2011, and we expect that the reestablishment of government control will allow the country to return to its pre-war economic trajectory. BMI predicts that real GDP growth will reach 6.1% in 2014, and will average 5.5% between 2014 and 2018. Growth will be driven by rising agricultural production, the recovery of investment spending - which fell by 13.6% in real terms in 2012 - and increased exports.

We note that the 2012-2013 crisis had a relatively minimal impact on Mali's headline GDP figures; recently released data reports that GDP contracted by just 1.7%. There are two key reasons for this. The first is that the crisis largely took place in Mali's arid north, a sparsely-populated area that contributes less than 5% of GDP. Violence displaced almost 600,000 people, but it had little impact on an economy that is firmly centred on the more populous southern provinces. The one exception to this is Mali's northern-based tourism sector, which collapsed in 2012 and which we predict will struggle to attract visitors for years to come.

Secondly, BMI notes that two of Mali's key industries both saw production rise in 2012. Favourable rains in the southern agricultural areas boosted cotton yields, while higher prices encouraged farmers to return to planting the crop. Gold production - which is based in the southwest - also rose due to the expansion of several mines. Exports increased by 12.0% in real terms, a boost to growth that largely counterbalanced the fall in investment, government, and consumer spending. Export growth will continue in 2014 and, combined with a domestic recovery, this will drive headline GDP growth to its highest level since 2005.
Economic Recovery, Lasting Political Fragility, Business Monitor Online, February 5, 2014


BAMAKO, Mali (AP) An official says two rockets have been fired at a French army base in northern Mali during a visit by France"s top military officer, but missed their target and caused no casualties.
Remi Libessart, a French military spokesman, said the attack occurred Tuesday morning while Adm. Edouard Guillaud was at the camp near the airport in Gao, but landed away from the site. He said it was not known who fired the rockets.
Gao was controlled by MUJAO, an al-Qaida-linked jihadist group, when northern Mali fell to Islamic extremists in 2012. France launched a military intervention in January 2013 that scattered the extremists, but security remains precarious.
Rockets fired at N. Mali French army base, The New Zealand Herald, February 5, 2014

4 Feb.

During the formal program to venerate Liberia's Armed Forces Day, all sorts of thought-provoking and motivational speeches are delivered and many promises are renewed. However, this year's celebration seems very interesting, because it comes at a time when Liberia was able to contribute troop to the United Nations backed peacekeeping force in Mali for the first time in the history of post-war Liberia. It comes at a time when the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is gradually drawing down and in fact plans are on the way to end mission sometime this year.

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) A group that monitors jihadist communications says a new Mali-focused jihadist media body has formed to push back against what it describes as flawed reporting on the military situation in the West African country.
The SITE Intelligence Group said Monday the al-Sahel Media Center announced on Twitter and a separate jihadist forum that it was replacing the al-Murabiteen Media Foundation of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, which has operated in northern Mali.
In one of its messages, the al-Sahel Media Center disputed reports extremists had been scattered by France"s intervention. It said the media service was necessary to counter "Arab and Crusader media campaigns."
Mali-focused jihadist media body forms, The New Zealand Herald, February 4, 2014

3 Feb.

The company said it produced 910,374 ounces last year, up from 794,844 ounces in 2012 and that gold sales also rose despite weakening global demand. In 2014 the company plans to increase production by up to 30pc mainly from better grades of ore extracted from its Loulo-Gounkoto mines in Mali and higher productivity at its Tongan pit on the Ivory Coast. Randgold will also book the first full year of production from its Kibali mine in the Congo.
Andrew Critchlow, Randgold eyes acquisitions and higher gold production;
Chief executive tellsthe Telegraph that the African-focused gold miner won't "hesitate to take opportunities" for M&A in the current market,, February 3, 2014


[Presenter] The visit of the delegation of the UN Security Council ended in the Malian capital, Bamako [on 3 February]. According to our correspondent in Mali, Serge Daniel, on the last day of the visit, some events took place. There was a meeting with the three main armed groups from the north.
[Daniel] Well, obviously, the three movements which are the MNLA [National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad], the HUA [High council for the Unity of the Azawad] and the MAA [Arab Movement for the Azawad] also spoke with one and the same voice. They agreed to the immediate resumption of the negotiations and to the respect of the territorial integrity of Mali.
However, they also told the UN emissaries that it was important to go further in the decentralisation policy so as to resolve the crisis in the north of Mali. They, therefore, demanded a special status, if not independence, for the north of Mali. It is therefore with this demand that the three armed groups will go to future discussions.
It also remains the problem of disarmament. There also, while the rebel groups were mentioning the preliminary Ouagadougou Accord, they told the UN emissaries that there will not be any full disarmament without any real negotiations.
[Presenter] Obviously, Serge, do you know if the negotiations will resume? Was a timetable drawn?
[Daniel] At the moment, no date for the resumption of the negotiations was fixed. In principle, in the short run, there should have been a roadmap but there remains the reaching of an agreement. Until today, there are some people among the armed groups who want the negotiations to take place in Burkina Faso and there are some who want the king of Morocco to play the role of facilitator and those who want to see Algeria play an important role side by side with him.
[Presenter] Thank you Serge Daniel. He was speaking live from Bamako for RFI.
UN Security Council delegation meets Mali's armed groups in Bamako, Source: Radio France Internationale, Paris, in French 1930 gmt 3 Feb 14 (via BBC Monitoring Africa February 4, 2014)


The UN has estimated 1.2 million people had to flee their homes due to violence and insecurity in the drought-prone Sahel region, the ecoclimatic belt of land between the Sahara desert to the north and the Sudania Savanna to the south that includes parts of 13 countries. Many of those displaced hail from Mali, Sudan, and the Central African Republic.



1 Feb.

Mohammed VI of Morocco on Friday [31 January] received the secretary-general of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad which represents the Tuareg rebels in northern Mali, Bilal Ag Acherif, a few days after Algeria hosted a session of dialogue between the rebels which culminated in common grounds on re-launching the talks with the Bamako government on the crisis in the north.
A statement by the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad said: "The visit was within the framework of the movement's efforts to convey the Azawad people's message and seek support from all those with sincere will to attain its legitimate aspirations for establishing peace in Mali generally and in the Azawad region specifically."
The statement explained that the Moroccan king "urged the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad to remain open to political dialogue, and on its part the Azawad Movement's delegation stressed to HM King Mohammed VI its readiness for and commitment to a lasting political solution to the current dispute between the Azawad region and the Malian government".
A statement by the Moroccan Royal Palace said: "The royal audience was within the framework of the diligent and persistent efforts made by the king to establish lasting peace and stability in that brotherly country and contribute towards finding a solution to the Malian crisis since it broke out in January 2012."
The statement added: "The king stressed that the kingdom continued to care about the territorial integrity and stability in the Republic of Mali and also stressed the need to contribute towards finding a solution and reaching an agreement that would withstand extremist and terrorist movements which threaten the Arab Maghreb Union countries and the Sahel and Sahara region as well as providing impetus to development and ensuring the dignity of the brotherly Malian people and amity between all its constituents."
The meeting was held a few days after Algeria hosted a number of groups which represented the Tuareg rebels in northern Mali to discuss the grounds for launching talks to find a political solution to the dispute."
The meeting coincided with Malian President [Ibrahim] Boubacar Keita's visit to Algeria which culminated in a joint statement which said: "At the request of the brother Malians, Algeria began efforts to contribute towards the ongoing efforts made by the international community aimed at promoting comprehensive national dialogue within the framework of respect for the principles of transparency, honesty, effectiveness and responsibility to enable the Malians to follow that course in accordance with the resolutions of the UN Security Council and the African Union's Peace and Security Council."
The statement added: "President Bouteflika conveyed to President Keita Algeria's complete readiness to stand by Mali in its effort to strengthen security and stability, maintain the country's territorial integrity and bring about reconciliation among all the Malians through dialogue and in line with the long-standing values of coexistence and accord which have been prevalent in Mali for a long time."
In a statement to Radio France Internationale [RFI] a few days ago, Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra said: "The negotiating Malian sides signed a preliminary agreement in Algeria which will become a basis for dialogue in the future. Algeria has opened the door to the brothers in Mali to think together and bring views closer in preparation for dialogue in Mali after they were asked to do so."
Lamamra said: "The first exploratory talks in Algiers were aimed at making forthcoming meetings more representative in terms of the number of negotiators." He pointed out that Algeria's efforts were aimed at bringing together all the players in northern Mali as well as the partners and to prepare a favourable political and psychological environment to take the talks forward.
The talks between the Malian government and the representatives of the Tuareg rebels in the north were hindered in the last few months and the African mediator Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore failed to keep them moving after the signing of the peace agreement in Ouagadougou in June 2013.
Algerian paper reports Moroccan king's meeting with Malian Azawad group, Echourouk El Youmi website, Algiers, in Arabic 1 Feb 14 (via BBC Monitoring Middle East - February 3, 2014)


Chancellor Angela Merkel's new defence chief Ursula von der Leyen said in an interview last weekend that Germany should engage more strongly in Africa by sending additional military trainers to Mali and supporting the French intervention in Central African Republic. 
Germans oppose use of troops in foreign wars, The Nation (Thailand), February 1, 2014


BAMAKO, Mali (AP) Humanitarian groups are warning that northern Mali soon could be facing a serious food crisis unless more money is raised.
The agencies warned Friday that more than 800,000 people need immediate food aid and some 3 million people nationwide are at risk.
February 1, 2014 Aid groups warn of food crisis in northern Mali, The New Zealand Herald