Donors pledge $4bn for Mali's reconstruction

French President Francois Hollande (l), Mali President Dioncounda Traore (r) and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso
Image caption The pledged donations exceeded expectations

More than $4bn (£2.6bn) has been pledged to help rebuild Mali, at an international donor conference.

French President Francois Hollande, co-chair of the Brussels conference, said rich country pledges had exceeded the $2.5bn anticipated.

Mali's president said the world had "unanimously moved in the direction of Mali".

The conference is the first since France sent troops to oust Islamist rebels from northern Mali in January.

Mali's government has a 4.3bn-euro plan for "a total relaunch of the country".

It includes rebuilding government institutions and the military, repairing damaged infrastructure, organising presidential elections, holding dialogue with rebel groups in the north and stimulating the economy.

'Road to recovery'

"We need water, health, justice, jobs, fairness," said Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore.

Mr Hollande said: "Mali is on the road to recovery."

"It is recovering its territorial integrity, is actively preparing for the presidential elections in July and, with the international donor conference in Brussels, is making progress in its development."

The BBC's International development correspondent, Mark Doyle, says that not all of the pledges may actually be delivered.

He points out that all sorts of techniques will have been used to massage the figures. For example, donor countries often "double count" their aid, pledging it several times under different headings and at different meetings.

EU pledge

On Tuesday the European Union pledged 520m euros (£442m; $673m) to help the country. Mr Traore had described the donation as "a good start".

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the money would help the West African state become "stable, democratic and prosperous".

Mr Barroso said the aid would benefit Europe as well as Africa.

"The support of the international community is essential to establish a Mali that is stable, democratic and prosperous," he added. "But the principal actors in this transition are the Malians themselves and their government."

He said the EU welcomed the Transition Roadmap, aimed at establishing a full return to democracy and stability in the country, and the Plan for the Sustainable Recovery of Mali, which Malian officials presented at the conference on Wednesday.

Officials had said 103 international delegations, including 10 heads of state and government, would attend the meeting, which was organised by Mr Barroso, Mr Traore and Mr Hollande.

Image caption Military instructors from various European nations are providing training for the Malian army

Since the French-led military intervention at the start of the year, the Islamist rebels have been pushed back from the main urban centres of northern Mali. However, some fighters have retreated to hideouts in the mountains and desert, from where they launch isolated attacks.

Tens of thousands of refugees also remain in neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger.

France nevertheless began withdrawing the first of its 4,500 troops in the country last month. It hopes to have only 1,000 remaining by the end of the year.

They are due to work alongside peacekeepers from the United Nations' Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (Minusma).

Mr Traore told a news conference on Tuesday that Mali's presidential elections would take place on 28 July, after months of speculation about the date. He said neither he nor any member of the transitional government would stand in the poll.

The BBC's Mark Doyle says the Islamists were only able to occupy large parts of Mali in the first place because of because of a weak and corrupt central government.

Rebuilding state institutions is therefore a priority, but it is also an enormous task, our correspondent says.

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