AU-led donors' conference pledges over US$450 million for Mali
International donors have pledged over US$450 million to support an African force to fight Islamist militants in northern Mali. The pledges came at a donors conference held Tuesday (January 30th) in Addis Ababa to raise funds and logistics support for the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA). Prior to the donors' conference, the AU's new chairperson, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, announced the AU Assembly's pledge to help stabilize Mali. The Assembly of Heads of State and Government adopted a declaration reaffirming its solidarity with Mali and expressing the determination to coordinate the efforts of member states. Prime Minister Hailemariam said the contributions toward Mali and the initiatives of NEPAD were examples of Africa trying to overcome its own problems instead of waiting for other countries to help. The African Union has promised to provide US$50 million, and Japan US$120 million; the United States has offered US$96 million, and Germany and the UK US$20 million apiece. Other donors who pledged support included the West African bloc ECOWAS, Ethiopia, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. India and China each pledged US$1 million each. ECOWAS communications director, Sonny Ugoh, said that the planned 3,300 strong AFISMA force could now expand to between 5,000 and 6,000 troops capable of combat and of helping to secure the gains made by the operations of French and Malia troops. Mr. Ugoh said deployment should be expeditious to provide meaningful support for the the French and Malian soldiers. Some AFISMA troops have already arrived in Mali but have yet to play any major role in combat. On Monday (January 28th), French and Malian troops captured Timbuktu following their recapture of Gao. France began the military offensive earlier this month after rebels began pushing toward the capital, Bamako. President Francois Hollande of France said that the French and Malian troops were now "winning in Mali.