Brussels, 19 June 2013/ ACP: Co-President of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly (JPA) Hon. Joyce Laboso has urged ACP members against “taking democracy for granted,” while calling for continued peace talks in Mali following a ceasefire agreement signed between the government and armed groups on Tuesday.

Mali was a keynote subject at a major three-day gathering of ACP and EU parliamentarians in Brussels this week, where the country’s Foreign Minister Hon. Tiemen Coulibaly confirmed elections for 28 July throughout all territories.

At a press conference, Hon. Laboso said more comprehensive dialogue is needed to bring about full disarmament and boost the process of building last peace and security for the region.

“The ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly has closely followed the events in Mali for over a year. The situation that unfolded, beginning from the armed rebellion in the North and the subsequent coup d’état and conflicts, shows that ACP states cannot afford to take democracy for granted. Mali used to be known as an exemplary democracy in the region. But this quickly crumbled in the face of acute challenges.

“ACP states must remain vigilant. Especially for us legislators, we must remain alert, informed, determined, untiring, bold and vigorous in terms of sustaining and promoting the values of democracy and the rule of law in our member states – because once we sleep on the job, it will be at the cost of peace, progress and people’s livelihoods,” she said.

Hon. Laboso added that in addition to short term reactions from the international community, Mali will need support for “long term, thorough” reconstruction and restoration.

Mali still a united country

Meanwhile, member of the Mali parliament Hon. Assarid Imbarcaouane stressed that despite the conflicts, Mali people are undivided.

“People need to understand the problems in Mali. The country is undergoing a rebuilding process, and it is the fighting between different armed groups that holds it back… There is no problem between the communities in the North and the communities of the South. We live in harmony and cohesion,” he told ACP Press.

In early 2012, armed groups seized the northern part of the country. Frustrated at the government’s handling of the crisis, military members staged a coup d’état. Negotiations led to a transition government, and later a cabinet of unity. A preliminary peace accord was signed between government and the rebel groups on 18 June 2013.

There are an estimated 175,000 refugees and 292,000 internally displaced people in Mali because of the crisis. More than 500,000 are in need of immediate food assistance in the north.

(Top: Hon. Assarid Imbarcaouane of Mali/ Above: Group photo with some of the ACP-EU parliamentarians, including co-president Hon. Joyce Laboso of Kenya [centre, in blue], co-president Mr. Louis Michel to her left [followed by ACP Secretary General H.E Alhaji Mumuni] and Speaker of the Irish Parliament Mr Sean Barrett to her right. )

– ACP Press