The head of Mali’s main Tuaregled rebel groups said weekend his movement will sign a final peace deal on June 20 to end the conflict in the west African nation. The Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) headed by Bilal Ag Acherif initialled a peace agreement with the Malian government on May 14 but held out on a final deal until amendments were made. “We will sign the peace accord on June 20,” Acherif said following talks in Algiers on security issues.
The ceremony is expected to take place in Bamako. The CMA also signed two key documents aimed at removing hurdles that have delayed a final agreement and at cementing a ceasefire in the north of the country. “We pledge to respect what we have signed,” Acherif said. Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said the signing of the documents was “an extra step in the exclusive interest of peace”.
His French counterpart, Laurent Fabius, welcomed “the spirit of reconciliation and compromise shown by all the parties” in Mali’s conflict and thanked Algeria for its mediation. The UN envoy for Mali, Mongi Hamdi, welcomed the CMA’s announcement that it will sign the final peace deal, but cautioned that the hardest part was still to come. “The most difficult phase will be to implement” the agreement, he told reporters. The Malian government and several armed groups signed an “Algiers Accord” on May 15 in Bamako, in a ceremony spurned by the CMA. That deal aims to bring stability to northern Mali, cradle of several Tuareg uprisings since the 1960s and a stronghold of jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda.
The CMA has been demanding that an amended final deal recognise “Azawad”, the name used by the Tuareg for the northern part of Mali, as a “geographic, political and juridical entity”. The Algiers Accord calls for the creation of elected regional assemblies but not autonomy or federalism, in deference to government concerns of separatism. The international community has pressed CMA to finalise the deal and Acherif had been holding talks with Malian government representatives in Algiers over the past few days to thrash out security and political concerns raised by the CMA. The documents signed on Friday appear to reconcile these concerns. One of them calls for the CMA fighters and other combatants to be included in a security force for the north, and for residents of the north to be represented in government institutions.