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UN envoy urges cooperation to halt 'epidemic of rebellion' in West Africa

UN envoy urges cooperation to halt 'epidemic of rebellion' in West Africa

Carolyn McAskie
Urging the international community and West African leaders to work together to "halt the epidemic of rebellion" plaguing the region, the top United Nations envoy for the crisis in Côte d'Ivoire today ended her five-country tour of the area with a final stop in Mali.

Carolyn McAskie, the Secretary-General’s Humanitarian Envoy for the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, has been in West Africa for nearly a month, with a mandate to increase efforts to coordinate and strengthen the humanitarian response to the steadily deteriorating situation in the region. Along with Mali, she visited Ghana, Burkina Faso, Liberia and Guinea.

Her three-day visit to Mali included meetings with senior members of the Government as well the international donor community, whom she called on to fund humanitarian programmes, in particular the safe transport of third-country nationals. In that regard, Ms. McAskie welcomed the transportation provided by the Government of Mali to their nationals trapped at the border between Liberia and Guinea.

It was in Mali, during a meeting with President Amadou Toumani Toure, that Ms. McAskie made her plea for broad cooperation to end the violence in the region, which has sparked massive flows of internally displaced persons and has imperilled nearly every element of West African society – from the health sector to the regional economy.

President Toure acknowledged those concerns, reminding Ms. McAskie that his country had suffered a heavy economic toll as Mali used to import and export over 70 per cent of its goods through its southern neighbour, but now had to explore alternative routes. "The crisis in Côte d'Ivoire comes at a great cost to Mali," he said.

According to the authorities, more than 35,000 people have crossed into Mali since 19 September, including some 2,000 Ivorian refugees. The town of Zegoua, along Mali's border with Côte d'Ivoire, which used to be a heavy commercial transit point between the two countries, has come to a standstill with a high cost to local trade and transport companies.

Ms. McAskie was scheduled to leave this evening for stops in Paris and Geneva for consultations with international humanitarian organizations and donors to impress upon them the importance of funding urgent humanitarian interventions related to the crisis.