From JULIANA TAIWO-OBALONYE, Abuja
President Goodluck Jonathan yesterday arrived Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia for the 20th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of States and Governments of the African Union (AU) taking place today and tomorrow. This is even as Nigeria has secured the commitment of a number of African countries to send troops to participate in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) led intervention force now battling al-Qaeda-linked Islamic militants in northern Mali.
South Africa, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania as well as Chad have all agreed to send troops to assist in the effort to curtail the spread of terrorism from Mali following a meeting with a federal government delegation led by the Foreign Affairs Minister, Ambassador Olugbenga Ashiru in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia over the weekend at the ongoing African Union (AU) Summit.
On the outcome of the meetings with delegations from different countries which include the United Kingdom’s Foreign Minister on African Affairs, Henry Bellingham, Ashiru disclosed that Nigeria campaigned for the need to prevent the crisis in Mali from spreading to other African countries saying “ it’s not to be seen just as a regional problem but with likely consequences outside the sub region if it was not controlled”.
“Interestingly, nearly all the countries we have had meetings with on the sidelines of this AU Summit have all been very forthcoming. They are all supportive of the leadership that Nigeria has shown. They are supportive of our efforts in Mali, they are supportive of what ECOWAS is doing to quickly assemble immediate response”. Continuing he said, “ Chad, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania and South Africa have all expressed determination to send troops to the campaign against terror in Northern Mali.
Ashiru further revealed that Nigeria was able to convince the countries “to see the large picture that the Islamist agenda in Mali is not just to takeover Mali but to use Mali as a platform to spread their terrorist activities throughout the whole West African region with Nigeria as the prime target”.
The Minister on behalf of the Federal government expressed gratitude to France for leading the effort to flush out the terrorists in Mali, noting that “If they did not intervene, Mali could have ceased to exist because the jihadists could have taken over. President Goodluck Jonathan is expected to canvass Nigeria’s position for continental economic integration and the drive for an AU Standby Force for quick intervention in crisis prone areas.