People hold banners during a protest against a foreign intervention in Mali. France has drawn up a UN Security Council resolution for military intervention. AFP photo
Extremists imposing Islamic law in Mali’s north are abusing human rights, particularly those of women, and paying families for children to become rebel fighters, a senior U.N. official said Oct. 10 after returning from the country.
U.N. Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic said rebel fighters, including Islamist extremists allied to al-Qaeda; in northern Mali were “buying loyalty” by abolishing taxes and paying for fighters and wives in a country where more than half the people live on less than $1.25 a day.
Mali descended into chaos in March when soldiers toppled the president, leaving a power vacuum that enabled Tuareg rebels to seize two-thirds of the country. But Islamist extremists, some allied with al-Qaeda, hijacked the revolt and then imposed harsh Islamic law in a desert region the size of France. “It is frightening to hear lists are being compiled of women and we do not know what is going to happen to them,” he said.France proposes deadline for intervention
“Children are particularly vulnerable in the north,” Simonovic said. “There is an attempt to enlist them as child soldiers. There is reliable evidence of many children being enlisted; their families (are) paid about $600 or a little bit less,” he added. “I heard from one testimony that children were also involved in learning how to produce improvised explosive devices.”
Meanwhile, France has drawn up a U.N. Security Council resolution seeking a detailed plan within 30 days on an international military intervention in Mali in a bid to oust rebels from the north. The draft also urges the country’s transitional authorities and rebel groups to engage as soon as possible in a credible negotiation process in order to seek a sustainable political solution to the crisis gripping Mali for months.
The draft resolution asks for “detailed and actionable recommendations to respond to the request (of the Malian government) for such an international military force,” including the concept of operations, force generation capacities and strength. Malian President Amadou Toumani has formally requested a U.N. mandate for an international military force with a deployment in Mali of West African troops that would help reconquer the north.
Compiled from Reuters and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.