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West ready to donate millions to coup leader in fight for Mali

Friday, 25 January 2013 - 4:30pm IST | Agency: The Daily Telegraph
Mali's army, under the command of the country's de facto ruler, is set to benefit from hundreds of millions of pounds donated by Britain and other Western powers desperate to halt al-Qaeda's advance in the country.

Mali's army, under the command of the country's de facto ruler, is set to benefit from hundreds of millions of pounds donated by Britain and other Western powers desperate to halt al-Qaeda's advance in the country.

Captain Amadou Sanogo is one of the most junior officers to lead a successful military coup, seizing power in Mali last March and duly comparing himself to the great French liberator, Charles de Gaulle.

He has been accused by critics of being "a threat to democracy" who is secretly opposed to outside military intervention.

He is said to fear that once any outside force has dealt with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), it will then turn on him. The goal of the intervention would change from beating AQIM to restoring a civilian government and sending him back to barracks.

Despite this, Western countries and other major donors are expected to promise pounds 687?million to help the army led by the 39-year-old army captain and the government he intimidates.

The bonanza will partly fund the French-led military campaign that has halted the advance of AQIM in Mali, as well as providing development designed to restore democracy.

Up to £172million is likely to go directly towards boosting the armed forces directly under Captain Sanogo's control.

AQIM first routed the Malian army and seized the north of the country at the same time as he took power. Despite this, Captain Sanogo rejected offers of military help from other African countries.

Although he released a brief statement in support of the French campaign earlier this month, critics believe that he has not changed his mind about intervention.

"He's against this intervention because of his personal interests," said Mamadou Maiga, the leader of the Patriotic Movement for Social Justice, a political party with two ministers in Mali's cabinet. "This person is today a threat to democracy. We don't want the militarisation of our politics."

Under international pressure, Captain Sanogo allowed a civilian, Dioncounda Traore, to be sworn in as interim president. In case the new head of state had any doubts about where real power lay, Capt Sanogo allowed a mob to break into the presidential palace and beat him. A prime minister who crossed the captain was forced to resign last month.

Today, Traore supports the French intervention, leading some to conclude that the balance of power has shifted away from the captain. But the test will come if and when AQIM's grip on the north is broken and Malians demand a return to civilian rule.

The money from Britain and other Western states is expected to be pledged at a donors' conference on Tuesday in Addis Ababa. The European Union is likely to approve development assistance worth €442 million (£362 million) in several tranches, diplomatic sources said.

Britain is likely to provide dozens of trainers for Mali's military, and is likely to pledge millions at the meeting.

There was some encouraging news yesterday (Thursday) as a faction of Ansar Dine, the main Malian Islamist group, said it wanted to negotiate with the French and renounced its alliance with AQIM.

Three al-Qaeda-linked extremist groups have controlled Mali's vast northeast for months since the coup d'etat in Bamako in March.

But in a sign of splintering, Alghabass Ag Intalla, the Ansar Dine leader, said he and his men were breaking off from the group in order to "be in control of our own fate".


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