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African leaders meet in Ethiopia amid Mali crisis

<cite class="byline vcard">By KIRUBEL TADESSE | Associated Press – <abbr class="updated" title="2013-01-27T16:28:41Z">Sun, Jan 27, 2013</abbr></cite>

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — African leaders met in the Ethiopian capital Sunday for talks dominated by the conflict in Mali as well as lingering territorial issues between the two Sudans.

The African Union says it will deploy a force in Mali, where French troops are helping the Malian army to push back Islamist extremists whose rebellion threatens to divide the West African nation.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is attending the two-day summit in Addis Ababa, where Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn took over from President Yayi Boni of Benin as chairperson of the African Union.

"We are determined to do what we can to help the people of Mali in their time of need," Ban said. "Humanitarian agencies are helping suffering civilians. The United Nations has also sent specialists on the military and political tracks. This is a moral imperative for all in the international community. I have presented to the Security Council my recommendation on the logistics support package for (the Mali force)."

With Mali at the top of the agenda, African leaders hope they can make quick progress in deploying a substantial number of African troops there. As the African leaders met, French special forces fighting alongside Malian troops were pushing farther north into the Malian desert in an offensive against al Qaida-linked Islamists who took control of northern Mali more than nine months ago.

Africa's economic boom is threatened by violent conflicts across the continent, African Union officials said at the summit.

"While we are proud of the progress made in expanding and consolidating peace and security on the continent, we also acknowledge that much still needs to be done to resolve ongoing, renewed and new conflict situations in a number of countries," said African Union Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

Dlamini-Zuma said the Peace and Security Council of the African Union will report to the summit on efforts to resolve conflicts in countries ranging from Mali to Madagascar.

The Peace and Security Council of the African Union said in a statement Saturday that it wanted "the early operationalization of the African Standby Force" in Mali. The council also said it fully supports Mali President Dioncounda Traore but urged him to put in place a roadmap to free and fair elections. It also said the African Union is committed to preserving the unity of Mali and would "spare no efforts" to safeguard the country's territorial integrity.

A number of African countries have pledged to send troops to Mali, and on Tuesday the African Union will hold a conference of donors with hopes that money will be raised for the Mali force. The Peace and Security Council of the African Union urged member states to "seize the opportunity of the donors' conference ... to meaningfully contribute toward the mobilization of the necessary resources."

The council also urged the international community to contribute generously to the Mali force.

Meanwhile, the leaders of Sudan and South Sudan met at the summit in Addis Ababa, although African Union officials said they did not expect them to make much headway. South Sudan President Salva Kiir and Sudan President Omar al-Bashir earlier this month agreed to "the unconditional and speedy" implementation of deals they had reached back in September. But a subsequent meeting of the two countries' negotiating teams that should have outlined timetable for the deal's implementation ended in disagreement.

Ban urged the two Sudans to resume direct talks and spoke of the "dangerous humanitarian situation in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states."

"In Sudan and South Sudan the parties have taken positive steps to resolve outstanding issues," Ban said. "But they should make more progress in meeting their agreements."

Mediators led by former South African leader Thabo Mbeki have until July to push the two sides to agree on the status of the disputed Abyei region as well as other contested border areas.









"I'm just trying to make a way out of no way, for my people" -Modejeska Monteith Simpkins









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Originally Posted by EbonyRose:

I have to wonder why there was such swift and decisive action taken (by the French or anyone else!!) to help the people of Mali and crush this 'takeover'  ... yet, 100+ people a day  have been killed in Syria for almost two years .... and no one is doing anything to stop that slaughter??  


Isn't it an opportunity for Europe/American military to get their foot in the door of Africa?  Next there will be a French/European or American "military base" in Mali, you know, the way America put a military base in Haiti decades ago.  

Timbuktu librarians protect manuscripts from rebels




File photo of a Tuareg nomad standing near the 13th century mosque at Timbuktu, Mali, March 19, 2004. REUTERS/Luc Gnago
By Pascal Fletcher

JOHANNESBURG | Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:00am EDT

(Reuters) -Malian scholars, librarians and ordinary citizens in the rebel-occupied city of Timbuktu are hiding away priceless ancient manuscripts to prevent them from being damaged or looted, a South African academic in contact with them said.


Cape Town University's Professor Shamil Jeppie said he was in daily contact with curators and private owners safeguarding tens of thousands of historic texts in Timbuktu, the fabled desert trading town and seat of Islamic learning overrun by Tuareg-led rebels on April 1.


Jeppie, involved in an internationally-funded initiative to preserve Timbuktu's "treasure of learning", told Reuters there had been no major losses so far to the main state and private manuscript collections, but he feared for the future.


"We hope it stays like this," he said, adding that Timbuktu was occupied by two main rival rebel groups: the "nationalists' of the MNLA movement who have declared an independent Tuareg homeland in northern Mali and are holding the city's airport, and the Islamists of the Ansar Dine (Defenders of the Faith) group who had occupied the main military barracks.


"I have no faith in the rebels. They may have an educated leadership, but they are sending in foot soldiers who are illiterate and if they want something they will take it ... They won't have any respect for paper culture," Jeppie said.

He said that since the April 1 rebel occupation, armed fighters had stolen vehicles from the Ahmed Baba Institute, the Malian state library named after a Timbuktu-born contemporary of William Shakespeare that houses more than 20,000 ancient scholarly manuscripts.


But the gun-toting fighters did not enter the rooms and underground vaults where the priceless texts were stored at the library's new South African-funded building.


"The new building was defended by the public ... they stood in front of the gates," Jeppie said, repeating accounts given to him.



At the institute's old building in another part of town, rebels ransacked the director's office, looting computers and other equipment, he added. But from the information he had received, no valuable manuscripts had disappeared.


Jeppie added he was hearing that major private owners of manuscript collections were either hiding or packing their texts away for protection or making preparations to try to smuggle them out, to the capital Bamako or to neighbouring countries like Niger.


The 8,000-manuscript Fondo Kati collection, which has received funds from Spain because of its links to the Arab heritage in Andalusia, was being "hastily transferred to boxes" for safe-keeping, he said.



Another major private library, the Haidara collection, was also safe. "(Owner) Abdul Kader Haidara just sent me a one-line email saying 'Everything is OK'," Jeppie said.


The associate professor at Cape Town University's Institute for Humanities in Africa said that in Timbuktu and its surrounding areas, there were at least 24 significant private manuscript collections.


Estimates for the total number of historic documents in the city, some of them from the 13th century, range from 150,000 to five times that number.




Timbuktu has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1988 and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova has appealed to the rebels to spare "Timbuktu's outstanding earthen architectural wonders". These include the Sankore, Sidi Yahia and Djingarei-ber mosques - the latter Timbuktu's oldest, built from mud bricks and wood in 1325 - and the famous manuscript libraries.


Some texts were stashed for generations under mud homes and in desert caves by proud Malian families who feared they would be stolen by Moroccan invaders, European explorers and then French colonialists. Now many fear the rampaging rebels, who carry AK-47s instead of muskets, lances and swords.

Brittle, written in ornate calligraphy, and ranging from scholarly treatises to old commercial invoices, the documents represent a compendium of learning on everything from law, sciences and medicine to history and politics. Some experts compare them in importance to the Dead Sea Scrolls.


Jeppie said he was concerned the Tuareg rebel occupation, which largely cuts off Timbuktu from the south of Mali, would plunge the ancient city back into the desert-surrounded isolation in which it had lived for centuries in the past.


"I think it's catastrophic, because it can have long-term economic effects," he said.


Power outages already occurring in the city would affect the special air conditioning required to better preserve the oldest crumbling manuscripts. Also, owners might be tempted to sell their texts to purchase essential supplies to live.


"Apparently nobody is in charge," said Michael Covitt, founder of the Malian Manuscript Foundation and producer of the documentary film "333" that presents the ancient Timbuktu texts as a universal formula of "peace, tolerance and cultural diversity" for a conflict-ravaged world.


Timbuktu is called the "City of 333 Saints" after the revered Sufi imans, sheiks and scholars buried there.


(Writing by Pascal Fletcher; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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