During a visit to Canada, the current chairman of the African Union called for a NATO role in Mali. Via Agence France Presse:
African Union Chairman Thomas Boni Yayi on Tuesday called for NATO troops to join African Union forces in a mission to stabilize Mali following a coup last year.
"NATO should play a part (in Mali), and the African force would lead the way as was done by NATO in Afghanistan," Yayi, who is also Benin's president, told a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Harper, however, said: "The Canadian government is not considering a direct military mission" in Mali.
It's not yet clear whether the idea represents a consensus position of the African Union, and a NATO spokesperson said that the alliance had received no formal request for assistance. Last month, the UN Security Council approved (with significant caveats) international support for an effort to restore northern Mali to government control. The UN resolution did not designate any single lead organization for that effort. To this point, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has been leading mediation efforts and is seen as the organization most likely to coordinate a response. Its members have pledged several thousand troops to help restore government control. The European Union has also committed to send advisers to help train Mali's armed forces.
The AU bid for NATO support likely reflects growing alarm about the advance southward of rebel forces, and the government's continued inability to respond. If the rebel advance continues, the cumbersome multilateral effort may well yield to a very familiar response: French intervention to save a teetering African government.