Mali conflict: Donor conference raises $455m By BBC | Wednesday, January 30  2013 at  08:15

Malian youths celebrate in Ansongo, a town south of the northern Malian city of Gao, as Niger troops enter the city. International donors meeting in Ethiopia have pledged $455.53m for an international campaign tackling Islamist militants in the country.  PHOTO | AFP

International donors meeting in Ethiopia have pledged $455.53m for an international campaign tackling Islamist militants in Mali.

The pledges for aid projects and the African-led Afisma force that is expected to take over from French troops in the country is about half the figure African leaders had requested.

French and Malian troops are securing Timbuktu after seizing it on Monday.

Meanwhile, a Tuareg group says it has control of the northern town of Kidal.

Home to the head of Ansar Dine, the main militant group in northern Mali, it had been the last remaining Islamist stronghold.

The international donor conference was held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

At the opening of the meeting, Cote d'Ivoire President Alassane Ouattara said the budget for the multinational force's operation would be $950m - more than double the African Union's initial estimate.

Some 60 to 70 donors had been invited to the conference to bolster the funding.

According to a list of donations carried on the AU's Twitter account on Tuesday, Japan pledged $120m, the US $96m and Germany $20m.

India and China pledged $1m each, the AU said, the same as Sierra Leone, which will also contribute 650 troops to the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (Afisma).

The national pledges cover Afisma, humanitarian assistance, logistics, improving security and the future development of Mali.

Credible elections

The chairwoman of the African Union Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, told delegates that they had gathered "to express solidarity with the Republic of Mali and its people".

"We all know the gravity of the crisis. It is a situation that requires a swift and effective international response, for it threatens Mali, the region, the continent and even beyond," she said.

France's Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, said impressive progress had been made but that this did not mean the danger was over.

Mr Fabius also said credible elections in Mali would be vital to achieving sustainable peace in the country.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said money would also be needed to fund post-conflict projects.

A journalist in Ethiopia said that there is a general recognition that Mali will not become peaceful again without a democratic transformation, but that for the moment the focus is firmly on finding the money needed by the military force.

On Tuesday, another conference in Brussels is due to decide on which countries will contribute troops for an EU military training mission for Mali.

The UK had already said it would contribute to the training mission and, on Tuesday, the government said around 350 British military personnel would be deployed to Mali and West Africa in a supporting role for French forces.

The UK will also allow allies to operate air refuelling flights from its territory.

Life appeared to be returning closer to normal in Timbuktu on Tuesday, with French and Malian troops in control of the streets of the historic city, although electricity and phone lines were still cut and some shops were being looted.