The international community and Mali must focus on the gains made at the Brussels meet to push for development, political dialogue and democracy

On January 23, 2013, in The Hindu (Op-Ed, “United against the terrorist threat”), we had outlined the strategy of military intervention against the terrorists in Mali. We had underscored the coordination between the military aspect, aimed at wiping out terrorist groups, and a development policy for Mali and its political transition. At a time when the international community is mobilising its resources towards these ends, we found it important to present the efforts being undertaken to stabilise Mali durably.

The international community united to ensure security and stability.

At the request of the Malian authorities, France, the African forces of the neighbouring countries and the Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) thwarted the attempt of terrorist groups to launch an attack on Bamako and transform Mali into a sanctuary for crime.

We have paid the price for it, the highest price: the blood of Malian, Chadian and French soldiers who have fallen in combat. Today, Mali’s territorial integrity has been restored and the terrorists have been defeated. A great number of them have been neutralised and their outfits destroyed along with a significant part of their resources.

This action will continue. The threat of terrorist groups in the Sahel and North Africa is a long-standing one. Although diminished, they retain a limited but real capacity for action and harm, as the May 23 attacks in Niger tragically show.

Now that the terrorists have been held in check, pursued and defeated in Mali, it is time to ensure the maintenance of law and order and prevent the return of jihadists. This is the mandate that the Security Council unanimously approved for the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) on April 25, 2013. It will replace the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) forces in July, while the French forces will be scaled down to 1,000 men by the end of this year. The United Nations Force, with over 11,000 men and a solid mandate, will have the means to defend itself, with the support of French forces in the event of serious, impending threats.

This operation will end once the Malian army is in a position to secure Mali’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. To attain this goal, almost 600 European trainers have been deployed as part of the European Union Training Mission (EUTM Mali) to help rebuild the Malian Army.

More generally, this endeavour concerns the entire region. Useful frameworks have already been put in place. The Global Counterterrorism Forum, co-chaired by Algeria and Canada, brings together all the countries of North Africa and the Sahel. The European Union has formulated a “Strategy for Security and Development in the Sahel,” which helps reinforce the security capabilities of the States of the region as part of a global approach.

Presidential elections

Development, political dialogue, democracy and governance are at the core of today’s efforts.

However, we must complete this fight by winning peace in Mali together. Parallel to the uncompromising fight against terrorist groups, it is crucial that the international community and Mali unite in their efforts to promote development, political dialogue, democracy and governance.

To confront the terrorist threat, there must be an active democracy, which reins in the ideologies of hate and intolerance advocated by radical groups. The President of Mali and the Malian government have therefore decided, with the National Assembly, to hold the presidential elections on July 28, 2013. A Dialogue and Reconciliation Commission has also been set up and commenced its work to promote the reconciliation of all the political elements of Mali, which stood up against terrorist violence both in the South and the North.

To win peace in Mali, it is also necessary to promote development and remedy the problems of the past: fragile institutions, insufficient governance and lack of coordination of international aid.

We would like this to be an exemplary process. With the aid of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the Malian authorities have themselves defined their reconstruction and development road map 2013-2014 for Mali’s sustainable economic recovery. All of Mali is concerned; not just the North, but the whole of Mali.

India’s role

At the joint invitation of the President of Mali, Dioncounda Traore, the President of France, François Hollande, and the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, more than 13 heads of State and 107 delegations — including India’s — spread over all the continents, participated in the donor conference, “Together for a New Mali,” which was held in Brussels on May 15, 2013. In all, pledges for a total of €3.2 billion in aid were confirmed, with Europeans alone contributing 1.35 billion. India pledged 100 million dollars. This is a good starting point for working in the long term.

French and European aid will contribute towards consolidating the reinstatement of the State, public services and administration, especially in the North, so that polls may take place all across Mali. It will support the evolution of the political process that should help foster national reconciliation, build inclusive institutions and establish legitimate democratic authorities.

The EU will extend its technical and financial assistance to this process in close coordination with the United Nations, which will be in charge.

A global answer

Development, democracy and efforts from all for Mali’s stability: we wish to mobilise all energies and show terrorist groups, no matter where they are, that the international community will not take matters lying down. We must all focus all the more to counter terrorism together as it is a scourge with increasing interactions: interactions between different regions of the world where terrorism manifests itself, as this is a phenomenon without borders; interactions with other threats, such as illegal trafficking or piracy, with the help of which terrorism subsists and is reinforced.

India, a great democratic nation that has herself been the victim of heinous terrorist acts, is on our side and we thank her once again for her unflagging support. Counterterrorism is a goal of prime importance for the international community and one of the cornerstones of the strategic partnership between France and India. We are conducting this global fight against terrorism together, in Mali, in the Sahel, in Africa, and everywhere where it is necessary.

(François Richier is Ambassador of France to India and Ousmane Tandia, Ambassador of Mali to India.)

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