Mali Still on the Brink, Dutch FM, Deputies Warn
The Hague, 22 November 2014 – Mali remains a fragile state pray to separatists and terrorists, and the international community must not neglect the country now that it is no longer making headline news, parliamentarians were warned on Saturday.
“In Mali, I think there is a chance for success. It can be a successful mission, but not if it is not paid the attention that is correct,” Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders told members of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.
Koenders said the conflict was the world’s top crisis on television for part of 2013 but that now “a year later, nobody’s interested in Mali. Nobody.”
The Malian state and army last year were ravaged by a military coup and a rebellion by ethnic Tuareg and Al-Qaeda linked fighters. The north is fertile ground for extremists exploiting porous borders with Algeria and Libya, and remains a threat to regional security.
"We have to look at very specific solutions with a mix of military instruments, of political instruments,” Koenders said. “We cannot impose our solutions there. That would never work, it's a balancing act.”
In a report adopted by the assembly’s Economic and Security Committee, deputies warned that Mali’s army cannot deal with the terrorist threat, and that the Sahel region is vulnerable to drought and food shocks, which exacerbate conflict.
The parliamentarian who guided the report through the assembly, Michal Szczerba from Poland, urged international help in reconciling the Malian government with Tuareg separatists and other minorities in the north.
He said the West should continue to reinforce Mali’s state institutions and deepen support for the army, which is being trained by the European Union, and he called on donor countries to find ways to help it deal with climate change.
Youth unemployment is a serious challenge, women must be included in peace and state-building, and more must be done to fight the exploitation of child labour, he warned, during the assembly’s three-day Annual Session in The Hague.
“Ebola poses an existential challenge to several governments in West Africa. Greater efforts are needed to contain the spread of this disease,” Szczerba added. At least five people have died from ebola in Mali.