AU chief: we were too slow on Mali

AU chief: we were too slow on Mali

African Union leaders convened in Ethiopia for their annual summit on Sunday, and outgoing AU chairman Thomas Boni Yayi had some tough words for the assembled heads of state:

Outgoing African Union chairman Thomas Boni Yayi told African leaders that their response to the conflict in Mali had been too slow, and thanked France for taking the lead in its military intervention in the country.

Boni Yayi, Benin’s president, told leaders on Sunday at the opening of the 54-member AU summit that the body’s response had taken too long, and that France’s action was something "we should have done a long time ago to defend a member country".

The ongoing conflict in Mali is likely dominate the African Union summit which has started in Addis Ababa, as regional leaders try to speed up the deployment of an African force there.

AU leaders will reportedly meet Tuesday to discuss financial and manpower contributions to the French-led effort in Mali:

African leaders and Western delegates will meet Tuesday to drum up support for the African-led mission in Mali, or AFISMA, after the African Union requested urgent support to bolster the force’s strength.

AFISMA is intended to support the weak Malian army — which has been boosted by the French military intervention — in its battle against Islamist insurgents, who seized swathes of Mali’s desert north following a coup last year.

The AU’s peace and security commissioner Ramtane Lamamra said he remained "reasonably optimistic" about the outcome of the conference and said the AU would seek financial contributions as well as logistical support.