With future of Mali at risk, donors step up
A fund-raising conference in Belgium exceeded expectations.
BRUSSELS, Belgium - A plan to turn Mali into a stable democracy rather than a terrorist haven drew massive support Wednesday as various nations and international groups pledged $4.22 billion to help reconstruct the West African nation.
The objective of the donors' conference in Brussels had been to raise $2.6 billion to support a $5.6 billion plan drafted by Malian officials aimed at helping what many observers view as a failed state reemerge as a stable, secure democracy.
By Wednesday evening, the pledges made far exceeded that goal.
"This conference was a total success," Mali's interim president, Dioncounda Traore, said, as he expressed unreserved thanks to the international community.
That the talks raised nearly twice as much as sought showed how serious a threat others see an ungoverned Mali.
A list of the pledges was not immediately released. But French President Francois Hollande said his country would contribute $363.3 million.
State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said the Obama administration would ask Congress for $180 million for Mali in 2014, after the elections.
The day before the conference, the European Union had announced it would give $674.8 million over the next two years.
Mali fell into crisis in 2012 as rebel groups took over the north and a military coup ousted the government, based in the south. Many international officials feared Mali's vast ungoverned northern area was giving terrorist groups free rein to hatch plots targeting other nations.
In January, France, Mali's former colonial master - acting on the request of the Malian government - sent troops to retake control of the northern region. They were ultimately assisted by troops from other African countries, and the effort has largely been a success.
But the question is what comes next.
"The war is being won," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Wednesday. "We must now win the peace."