France has called for international observers to be deployed in Mali to monitor possible human rights abuses. As international donors agreed on funding for the mission, thoughts have turned to Mali's political future.
French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said on Tuesday that an international mission was needed to ensure that human rights are respected.
The appeal follows reports from human rights groups of reprisals by Malian troops in parts of the country retaken from Islamist rebels.
"The French government is ... in favor of rapidly deploying international observers to ensure that human rights are respected," Ayrault told a French parliamentary meeting.
The group Human Rights Watch warned on January 19 of violence by Malian troops in the central town of Niono. It also raised alleged killings of Tuaregs and Arabs who some perceive to have supported the rebels. The FIDH human rights federation, meanwhile, has warned of the possibility that summary executions against suspected rebels and sympathizers might be carried out.
Ayrault stressed that it remained to be established whether alleged abuses had taken place so far.
"Our troops have been told to show extreme caution in responding to acts of violence. I point out, though, that the International Committee of the Red Cross has not so far confirmed acts that have been reported on this subject by some non-governmental organizations," he said, adding that the importance of respecting rights had been stressed to Malian authorities.
International donors who met on Tuesday in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, pledged just over $455 million (337 million euros) for a drive to expel rebels from the north of the country and pay for humanitarian aid. It was unclear how much of the funding is to be used for military purposes.
‘Only the beginning'
African leaders expect the total expenditure on the force to reach almost $1 billion, but Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore said after the meeting that he was hopeful the shortfall would be met.
"You will certainly understand that it is not sufficient. But I think it is only the beginning. We hope that it will continue, and that the money we need will come," Traore said.
Doubts linger about how soon the African intervention force known as AFISMA, which is expected to exceed 8,000 troops, might be fully deployed in Mali. The number includes soldiers from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, as well as non-member Chad.
The caretaker president also indicated that his government was seeking to organize "credible" elections for July 31. UN special envoy for the Sahel region, Romano Prodi, on Tuesday reiterated the need for political consensus on the country's future.
"As soon as stability is established in the country's main cities it will be necessary to resume negotiations immediately, because peace in Mali is made through political stabilization," Prodi said.
rc/jr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
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