International community pledges billions of aid money for Mali | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 16.05.2013
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International community pledges billions of aid money for Mali

Donors from more than 100 countries and a number of international organizations have in Brussels promised billions in aid to Mali. Strings attached to the money include a national dialogue and transition to democracy.

The international donor conference for Mali has pledged more than 3 billion euros ($3.9 billion) to help the country, exceeding expectations of 2 billion euros. The European Union alone will provide some 520 million euros in 2013 and 2014. Independent of that amount, Germany has promised 100 million, France, the former colonial power of Mali, has pledged almost 300 million euros.

Earlier this year, a French military intervention stopped rebels from making further inroads in the country. "The war is won, now we have to secure the peace," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. France has begun to withdraw its soldiers and transfer the responsibility for the security situation to a multinational African mission. Germany's Bundeswehr wants to participate in that mission with 180 training officers.

First priority: immediate aid

In this photo taken on Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) and released Tuesday Jan. 29, 2013, a French soldier guards the Timbuktu airport, in northern Mali. Backed by French helicopters and paratroopers, Malian soldiers entered the fabled city of Timbuktu on Monday after al-Qaida-linked militants who ruled the outpost by fear for nearly 10 months fled into the desert, setting fire to a library that held thousands of manuscripts dating to the Middle Ages.(Foto:Arnaud Roine; EMA-ECPAD/AP/dapd)

French troops had helped stopping the rebel advance

But first and foremost the pledged money will aim to meet the population's basic needs. The war has devastated the country which already is one of the poorest in the world and which even in better days was dependant on foreign aid. Additionally, the 2012 military coup had meant that many donor countries had ceased sending aid.

EU Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva spoke of the desperate need in all of Mali. "tthe critical point is food, 660,000 children are malnourished, 750,000 people require immediate food aid." The EU also estimated that there are half a million refugees, both in Mali itself as well as in neighboring countries. They too are to receive international aid.

Reconciliation and democratization

But in the long run this all will achieve very little if nothing is done about the causes of the crisis. Most of the donors, including the EU, the World Bank, the IMF and the United Nations, set conditions on their support. EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the reestablishment of order and government in the country linked to Mali's sustainable development. Sri Mulyani Indrawati, the World Bank representative, said there was urgent need "to strengthen the judicial system and fight corruption to protect all citizens but especially women and the poor."

Rebecca Gynspan of the United Nations Development Program called on all of Mali's leading politicians to engage into a "national dialogue" with all groups of society. She added that only then would it be possible to solve the "deeply rooted political, social and development problems." Also the German promise for aid is made dependant on the democratization process and is to be paid only if progress on that front is made.

No safe haven for terrorists

Militiaman from the Ansar Dine Islamic group, who said they had come from Niger and Mauritania, ride on a vehicle at Kidal in northeastern Mali, June 16, 2012. The leader of the Ansar Dine Islamic group in northern Mali has rejected any form of independence of the northern half of the country and has vowed to pursue plans to impose sharia law throughout the West African nation. Iyad Ag Ghali's stance could further deepen the rift between his group and the separatist Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) as both vie for the control of the desert region. Picture taken June 16, 2012. REUTERS/Adama Diarra (MALI - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CONFLICT RELIGION TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)

The international community is worried Mali would become a safe haven for Islamists

It's a demand that Mali's transitional President Dioncounda Traore wants to fulfill. The first item to do on his list is to make himself superfluous. Brussels has asked Traore to hold fresh presidential elections by end of July. This deadline was a challenge, Traore said, but one "we have to accept and meet."

He said he does not want to run for office again and added that the prime minister and other members of the government will also not run for the job.

"We believe we can not be judges and participants at the same time," Traore said. "We want to give the people of Mali an election as transparent, open, honest and credible as possible."

Despite all the country's problems, Foreign Minister Tieman Hubert Coulibaly is hopeful.

"Mali is a country full of promise," Coulibaly said. "The youth believe in the future. And we believe that a stable Mali will mean a stable west Africa."

He reminded the donors of their own interests as well. EU representatives said a torn Mali would destabilize the entire region and could make it to a safe haven for extremists just south of Europe. A stable Mali, however, would contribute to calming the tense situation in the region.

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