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AFISMA Head of Mission visits Timbuktu and reiterates the need for dialogue and reconciliation in Mali

By African Union Commission (AUC)
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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, May 24, 2013/African Press Organization (APO)/ -- The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU) and Head of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA), former President Pierre Buyoya, has emphasized the importance of intra-communal and inter-community dialogue, as part of the search for a sustainable solution to the multi-dimensional crisis in Mali.

The Special Representative made this emphasis while addressing local government officials, community elders and religious and cultural leaders in the northern Malian town of Timbuktu, on 23 May 2013, during an official visit to the town. He encouraged the various communities in the region to participate in the national dialogue and reconciliation process that was recently launched by the Malian Government. “Forgetting what happened here may be difficult. However, dialogue, forgiveness and reconciliation are indispensable to enable this beautiful community to rebuild and move on”, he said.

The local leaders told the Special Representative that life was gradually returning to normal in Timbuktu, following the liberation of the town a few weeks ago. They thanked AFISMA for deploying African troops, from Burkina Faso, to take over from French forces and support the Malian forces in providing security for the Timbuktu region, which covers 40 per cent of the surface area of Mali, with a pre-crisis population of 700.000 people.

“We were initially nervous when we heard that France was withdrawing its forces from Timbuktu. However, since the arrival of the Burkinabe troops last month, our fears have been dissipated. They have done a remarkable job and we are pleased to have them in our midst”, the local leaders told the Special Representative.

Addressing the AFISMA troops, at their base at the Timbuktu international airport, President Buyoya reiterated that AFISMA is in Mali to help liberate a fellow African country from armed extremists and narco-terrorists; support Mali in consolidating its national unity and re-asserting state authority throughout its territory; as well as to encourage and support the country in its return to democratic dispensation. He commended the troops for their exemplary conduct and urged them to continue discharging their duties with perseverance, dedication and professionalism, despite the challenging geographic and logistical conditions under which they are operating. The imminent transformation of AFISMA into a United Nations multidimensional stabilization Mission, he added, will help alleviate some of the logistical problems faced by the troops.

The Special Representative and the troops observed a minute of silence in honor of Brigadier General Yaye Garba, the AFISMA Deputy Force Commander, who died in Bamako, Mali, on 11 May 2013, and was buried in his home country, Niger, on 18 May 2013.

Before returning to Bamako, President Buyoya and his delegation also visited the Djingarei-Ber Grand Mosque, which was built in the early 14th century, and saw the damage inflicted on priceless historical cultural and religious sites by the violent extremists and terrorists during their one-year ruthless occupation of Northern Mali.