Islamist threat remains in Africa, Senegal leader warns
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Senegal President Macky Sall urged the countries of Africa's desert
north on Friday to remain vigilant against the threat of Islamism which
he said remained despite the French military intervention in Mali.
an exclusive interview with AFP, the head of state hailed the "great
synergy" which had arisen between France and the nations of the north
African Sahel region battling armed insurgents in Mali since January.
said the threat had been "seriously contained" but he warned: "We must
remain vigilant and that vigilance is imperative in Senegal and all the
countries in the region."
France sent troops in January to Mali to
quash Al-Qaeda-linked groups that had taken control of the country's
vast desert north and were advancing toward the capital Bamako.
are fighting alongside the Malian army and other African soldiers and
have largely succeeded in driving Islamist insurgents from the north.
did not specify where a new threat might arise but pockets of Islamist
resistance remain in northern Mali, particularly in the Gao region.
in North Africa has urged Muslims worldwide to attack French interests
in retaliation for the intervention, a threat President Francois
Hollande said is being taken seriously.
Meanwhile the Sahel offers
a vast sanctuary spanning 7,500 kilometres (4,700 miles) from Senegal
in the west to Somalia in the east, for armed extremists including the
Nigerian Islamist sect Boko Haram, fundamentalist Shebab militants in
Somalia and various Al-Qaeda splinter groups.
Sall recalled that
in September last year "people felt that there was no threat, that we
should wait until the end of 2013 before considering the establishment
of an international force" to intervene in northern Mali.
really needed the strong conviction of ECOWAS (the Economic Community of
West African States), the AU (African Union) and finally, but most
importantly, we must pay tribute to Francois Hollande who believed and
who fought alongside us...," he said.
Sall said Senegal had been
unable immediately to join the action when French and African troops
deployed in January, "military logistics being what it is".
announced that the number of Senegalese soldiers in the African-led
Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA) had risen from 704 to a full quota of
around 815 deployed in the largest northern city, Gao.
They will be integrated in July into the UN peacekeeping force of more than 12,000 troops, known as MINUSMA, he said.
"Impunity is over"
is led by a transitional administration set up after a military coup in
March last year that toppled the regime of President Amadou Toumani
Toure and precipitated the downfall of the country's north to the
The extremists imposed a brutal version of Islamic
sharia law in Mali's northern cities, leading to a mass exodus of some
400,000 refugees, both abroad and to other parts of the country.
said the country needed to hold presidential elections by July in order
to establish the legitimacy of the Malian government and a "return to
Observers have voiced doubts over the
possibility of elections within such a tight timescale, mainly because
of continued instability in the north, and the logistical difficulty of
getting refugees into polling booths.
But Sall said the conditions
for elections "could be met", even in Kidal, the northern town held by
the ethnic Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA),
which says it will not allow the Malian army or government into the
"We are very far from the situation when Pakistan and
Afghanistan held elections," he said, indicating that Mali was better
equipped to go to the polls than those countries had been.
"You have to put into perspective the instability and difficulties, which are quite limited."
launched a number of audits into the finances of political foes after
his resounding victory last year in a poll marred by violence over his
rival Abdoulaye Wade's efforts to seek a third term in office.
leaders of the 2000-2012 Wade regime have been repeatedly questioned
over allegations of "illegal enrichment" while his son Karim is in jail
awaiting trial for corruption over the amassing of a fortune of more
than $1 billion.
The former ruling Senegalese Democratic Party
accuses Sall of conducting a "witch hunt" against its hierarchy but the
president told AFP the crackdown "has nothing to do with politics".
has nothing to do with targeting anyone -- we're not here for that. I
am confident that our justice system in this case, as in others, will
uphold the law," he said.
"The matter is in the hands of a fully
independent, autonomous panel of judges who will evaluate freely if
there is any truth in what the prosecutors have alleged," he added.
who proclaimed that he was "the best elected president in Africa", told
AFP his government was "cleaning up public life and as it's new, it
bothers people. Everybody knows now that impunity is finished in this