U.S., France Differ Over How to Deal With ‘Explosive’ Mali
Northern Mali, plagued by Islamist extremists and gripped by an aid disaster, is “one of the potentially most explosive corners of the world,” the United Nations warned on Monday, as the United States and France differed over how to tackle the crisis.
Almost 350,000 Malians have fled their homes, with about 40 percent of those sheltering in neighboring countries, said the United Nations. This has exacerbated a humanitarian crisis in the Sahel - a belt of drought-stricken land spanning nearly a dozen impoverished countries on the southern rim of the Sahara from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.
“Protection concerns are growing, with widespread reports of serious human rights violations from sexual violence and child recruitment to stoning and mutilations of criminal suspects,” U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told the U.N. Security Council. “Northern Mali … (is) one of the potentially most explosive corners of the world.”
Mali descended into chaos in March when soldiers toppled the president, leaving a power vacuum that enabled Tuareg rebels to seize two-thirds of the country. But Islamist extremists, some allied with al Qaeda, have hijacked the revolt.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon cautiously recommended last month that the Security Council approve an African Union military operation to take back northern Mali, contingent on political, human rights, training and operational benchmarks being met.
France has circulated a draft resolution to approve such a mission, but the United States has countered with a proposal that the operation be split into two missions that would be mandated separately by the 15-member council, diplomats said.