The intervention by France and ECOWAS in the Mali situation is a welcome one and worthy of commendation.

It is also very commendable that the ECOWAS has intervened with the provision of forces and other logistics to help stem the situation in Mali.

While ECOWAS, France and members of the international community continue to pool their resources in resolving the unfortunate conflict in Mali I call on the major stakeholders to seriously consider seeking a lasting political solution to the Tuareg issue.

It is general knowledge that the Tuaregs have been seeking an autonomous region in Mali for a considerable period. While offering them autonomy may not be a logical solution to the problem because of the multi-ethnic and cultural situation in Mali, it is important that serious consideration is given to their grievances with the goal of seeking a lasting solution that satisfies all the people of Mali.

The non-resolution of some of these ethnic and cultural differences across our continent has given room to terrorist cells infiltrating disillusioned groups, offering them a voice and using them for their selfish and parochial interests.

Africa cannot afford to brush under the carpet unresolved ethnic issues with the potential of metamorphosing into terrorist activity because of the vulnerable situation our local societies find themselves in.

In seeking support from the International Community we should also be careful we do not export terrorism from one country to another. Taking on the previous Libyan regime, led to the escalation of the Malian problem as heavily armed fighters crossed into Northern Mali. We should not resurrect the problem elsewhere by pushing the fighting Tuaregs into neighbouring countries and sowing seeds of fresh conflict with its attendant spiral effect.

Let us resolve to bring an end to ethnic conflicts that are not uncommon in our various countries. Let us also resolve to ensure that in seeking to bring some order and political authority across Mali we do not assume that military force will stifle the grievances of the Tuaregs.

The African Union, ECOWAS and other stakeholders should work in concert to bring the aggrieved parties on to the negotiating table and ensure that a workable and lasting solution is reached – one that will sustain the stability of Mali and one that will make it difficult for terrorists with ulterior motives to infiltrate ethnic ranks to sow seeds of violence and confusion.