Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Situation in Mali

Delivered in Plenary - 15th January 2013

Madam President

The situation in Mali has rapidly become one of the most pressing and alarming issues facing the globe, both in humanitarian terms and in the wider international context of security. Ever since I was appointed as rapporteur for human rights in the Sahel, the outlook on the ground has deteriorated beyond measure. We face a grave situation in this once thriving democracy. The atrocities reported now in northern Mali of widespread sexual violence, recruitment of child soldiers and public amputations have shocked us all, not to mention the cultural desecration of Timbuktu and other heritage sites.

The al-Qa’ida-backed Ansar Dine and Islamist allies AQIM and MUJAO now threaten to overcome the whole of Mali, destroying that country’s legitimate government and plunging the Malian people into an Islamist dictatorship and a potential terrorist haven for terrorists and jihadis globally. Already we are in the grips of a refugee crisis. This is no Arab Spring, and the terrorists are certainly no liberators. Such an outcome would be catastrophic not only for Mali, but for Africa and the wider world as well. A country controlled by such extreme and merciless terrorists would pose an incalculable risk to regional and global security.

Therefore my group, the ECR, endorses France’s military campaign. It is not an easy course of action and nobody likes the sight of planes dropping bombs on any country, but we must appreciate the exceptional circumstances of this operation. It has been instigated at the express request of the legitimate government in Bamako, which has been overwhelmed by the terrorists. Crucially, Ecowas troops will now reportedly be arriving within a matter of days to ensure that this operation will be jointly African-led and jointly executed.

We must now ensure that the intervention in Mali achieves its aims quickly and successfully, with the utmost care taken to avoid civilian casualties. Algeria must be thanked for allowing overflight rights, and the UK Prime Minister, David Cameron, is to be congratulated for his military assistance to French President Hollande and to French troops in their transportation by aircraft. This is another sign of European states working together to help an African country achieve the objectives of peace, stability and freedom that we in Europe too often take for granted.