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Despite guaranteed backing from the US, France ruled out sending its own troops to North Africa, asking the African Union and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to step in instead.France did pledge, in a United Nations security resolution it drafted, to fully support African efforts in Mali.
Aside from Mali once being under French control–the official language is still French–six French hostages are being held in northern Africa. North Africa al-Qaeda has threatened to kill the hostages if France intervenes.
Mali’s government fell into disarray in March, when soldiers ousted the president for not controlling the separatist rebels in the northern part of the country, Azawad. Tuareg rebels took advantage of the chaos seized region, including Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal, a regional capital, under the name National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).
The Tuaregs wanted their own country. But then Islamic extremist group Ansar al-Dine, and the fight went from being about independence to spreading Islamic rule.
On top of that, due to a drought in the Sahel region, the 12 countries on the southern end of the Sahara, including Mali, is facing widespread starvation, leading to further instability in the area.
The French resolution asks for a plan for military intervention within 30 days. The African Union and ECOWAS previously asked the UN for military intervention, but needed a more detailed plan. ECOWAS sent troops to Libya and Sierra Leone in the past.
Once the UN gets the plan from the African Union and ECOWAS, diplomats can vote on the resolution. It is expected to pass. Today the UN named Former Italian Prime Minister and European Commission President Romono Prodi envoy to Sahel, with Mali being his prime focus.
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