Mali peace deal stalled by Azawadi rebel protests

Mali peace deal stalled by Azawadi rebel protests
Three of six main Azawadi groups refuse to sign deal to end decades of fighting with central government, and call for a regional assembly and special status.
2 min read
02 March, 2015
Bamako has been fighting an Azawadi rebellion for decades [AFP]

A peace agreement to end years of fighting in northern Mali is in jeopardy after three Azawadi rebel groups refused to sign the deal.

The three armed groups - the supreme council for the unity of Azawad, the Arab-Azawadi movement, and the national movement for the liberation of Azawad – all expressed reservations about sections of the peace plan. 

The signing has been delayed until the rebel groups have consulted their leaders in northern Mali and local people.

Protests about the peace deal broke out on Sunday in some towns of northern Mali.

Rebel groups are also demanding changes to the security framework for the area, a regional assembly, and special status for the Azawad.

The largely arid region makes up the majority of Mali territory, and includes the cities of Gao and Timbuktu.

Azawad contains a number of important linguistic groups, such the Tuareg and Hassaniya Arabs, who are distinct to their southern compatriots and generally isolated from the government in the south.

     Azawad contains a number of important linguistic groups such the Tuareg and Hassaniya Arabs.

Leading the mediation team is Algeria's foreign minister Ramtane Lamamra, who has suggested that the contentious clauses be referred to the technical committees for further negotiations.

The draft peace and national reconciliation plan was drawn up to end fighting between the six main Azawadi separatist movements and the central government in Bamako.

The deal, if accepted, would end decades of unrest in northern Mali close to the border with Algeria.

Committees are to be formed to oversee the disarmament of militias and the national army will be deployed to areas of unrest.

Azawadi fighters would be integrated into the army, police and counter-terrorism teams.

Steps would also be taken for the economic development of the north, and access for the population to social services, where extremist groups are still able to pentrate.

Disagreements about the peace plan are not thought to be a serious threat to peace in the area, but strong opposition could strain the ceasefire.

The decades of instability in Mali led to the rise of several al-Qaeda groups in the north of the country. Their presence was diminished by a French-led campaign in 2012.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

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