With the rise of extremism engulfing Mali, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton today says chaos and violence in Mali does threaten to undermine the stability of the entire region of Sahel.
In her remarks at a UN Secretary General Meeting on the Sahel, Ms. Clinton says in Mali there is an apparent danger posed by violent extremists imposing their brutal ideology, committing human rights abuses, destroying irreplaceable cultural heritage.
Ms. Clinton pointed out that it’s not only the violent extremists, drug traffickers and arms smugglers are also finding safe havens and porous borders, providing them a launching pad to extend their reach throughout not only the region, but beyond.
She says the violence in Mali has displaced nearly 500,000 people from their homes, and 4.5 million more are suffering from dwindling food supplies.
“This is not only a humanitarian crisis; it is a powder keg that the international community cannot afford to ignore.” -Ms. Clinton
The United States has already provided more than $378 million to meet the escalating humanitarian needs in the Sahel.
She says tt is also critical for all the actors in the region to redouble their efforts to develop a sound approach to tackling what is happening coming over their borders.
Ms. Clinton stresses that they have to train the security forces in Mali, help them dislodge the extremists, protect human rights, and defend borders.
Only a democratically elected government will have the legitimacy to achieve a negotiated political settlement in Northern Mali, end the rebellion, and restore the rule of law, Ms. Clinton stated.
She adds it is imperative that the interim government meet the April deadline for holding elections that are fair, transparent, and free of influence by the military junta.
“And all parties must do more to protect human rights and punish abuses.” -Ms. Clinton
What is happening inside Mali is augmented by the rising threat from violent extremism across the region, she said.
For some time, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and other groups have launched attacks and kidnappings from northern Mali into neighboring countries, Ms. Clinton noted.
She adds that with a larger safe haven and increased freedom to maneuver, terrorists are seeking to extend their reach and their networks in multiple directions.
In addition, Ms. Clinton states that terrorists are now working with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions underway in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi.
“This is a threat to the entire region and to the world, and most particularly, to the people in the region themselves who deserve better.” -Ms. Clinton
According to Ms. Clinton, the United States is also stepping up its counterterrorism efforts across the Maghreb and Sahel as well.
The outbreak of conflict in northern Mali was caused by clashes between Government forces and Tuareg rebels.
Tuareg rebels launched a new rebellion in the north on 17th of January. Since then, troops have clashed with rebels in several northern towns.
Tuareg nomads are present throughout the Sahel region of Africa. Both Mali and Niger have battled Tuareg uprisings in the last decade.
The Sahel has regularly been afflicted by food insecurity as drought, poor harvests and rising food prices have left the region on the brink of a humanitarian crisis.
The Sahel belt of Africa stretches from Senegal to Eritrea.