Mali To Form Elite Force To Protect Leaders

Mali's government says the new elite force of 1,200 troops meets the wishes of other West African states (AFP, SERGE DANIEL) Mali‘s transition government on Monday announced the creation of an elite force of 1,200 troops to protect the leaders of the country’s embattled interim regime.

“Under the direct authority of the president, these special forces will assure the security of the head of state, the prime minister, the speaker of the national assembly and other state institutions,” said a statement from the communications ministry.

The communique added that the formation of the special force was in line with the wishes of leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) who met in Ouagadougou on Saturday.

The special force will be formed with the most recent graduates from the schools of police and para-military police.

The statement said Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra had asked countries friendly to Mali to assist in “perfecting the training of this elite corps and reinforcing its logistical and material equipment.”

He recently visited Algeria, France and Morocco.

This was done in agreement with transition president Dioncounda Traore, who has been in Paris for over a month since a violent attack in his office by a mob opposed to him taking over from the junta.

The new force should be in place “as soon as possible”, said the statement.

West African leaders who met in Ouagadougou urged Traore to ask “without delay” for ECOWAS and the UN to approve the sending of an African force to Mali, notably to protect the president when he eventually returns.

However a source close to Traore said he wanted to be protected by Malians out of “national pride.”

The interim government was put in place for 12 months and took over in April from a military junta which ousted the previous leaders on March 22.

It has proved unable to deal with the takeover of the country’s north by Islamist fighters who took advantage of the chaos after the coup to seize key northern towns.

They have enforced strict Islamic law, destroyed ancient cultural treasures and along with other armed groups have been accused of serious rights abuses and war crimes.

The top ECOWAS mediator, Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore, told the meeting of politicians, religious and trade union leaders that a new government must “confront the terrorist peril in the north”.

At the Ouagadougou meeting, ECOWAS leaders gave Diarra until July 31 to create a “unity government” that can provide a clear timeline to exit the crisis.

If not, ECOWAS would no longer recognise the government of Mali and the country would be suspended from sub-regional groups.

Meanwhile on Monday two west African mediators in the Malian crisis arrived in Paris to meet with Traore, who has been in the French capital seeking treatment after his attack on May 21.

Burkinabe Foreign Minister Djibrill Bassole and Ivorian Minister of African Integration Ally Coulibaly would discuss the outcome of Saturday’s summit with Traore, their entourage said.


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