Inside Story

Mali: Steps towards peace?

As an agreement is reached between the government and Tuareg rebels, we ask if this will signal an end to the crisis.

In Mali, the government and Tuareg rebels have signed a deal that could finally reunite the country, a move that signals an important step towards peace.

The accord calls for an immediate ceasefire and for government troops to return to the northern rebel-held town of Kidal.

The UN, the EU and France were all quick to praise the move, but will it bring an end to the rebellion that began a year and a half ago, or is it merely to allow a presidential election to take place in Mali – including in areas controlled by the Tuareg?

The Tuareg are a separatist group fighting for independence from Bamako.

What we have created with this agreement is really a foundation; we created legitimacy for the international intervention ... We also have created favourable conditions for the transformation of the governance, and the political system in Mali.

by Alexandre Vautravers, associate fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

Last year’s rebellion saw them take over the north and create an independent region. Within that area, the Tuareg now control the cities of Gao, Aguelhok and Kidal.
They declared the independent state, called Azawad, in April last year, but the Tuareg rebellion was to some extent hijacked by al-Qaeda-linked groups, including Ansar Dine and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). These groups want to impose Islamic law across Mali.

Amadou Sanogo is the military officer who led a coup against Mali’s president in March last year. He promised to crush the northern rebellion, but Mali’s army was no match for the rebels, who tightened their grip on the north following the coup.
In January, France launched a military intervention to hold back the rebel advance, at the request of Mali’s president.

Mali has a strategic place in West Africa, and western countries are worried that al-Qaeda-linked fighters in the north could destabilise neighbouring countries.

Many Tuareg fighters returned to Mali, from Libya via Algeria, after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. Algeria is facing pressure to deal with armed groups seeking refuge in the south.

Mali’s eastern neighbour, Niger, is also at risk of being destabilised by rebel fighters. Niger is strategically important to France because it provides uranium for France’s nuclear industry.
And though Nigeria does not directly neighbour Mali, it too is facing an insurgency problem from al-Qaeda-linked armed group Boko Haram.

So, can the agreement between Mali’s government and Tuareg rebels finally end the crisis in this strategically important African country? And where does this leave the al-Qaeda affiliated fighters still roaming the region?

To discuss this, Inside Story, with presenter Jane Dutton, is joined by guests: Akli Sh’kka, spokesman for the Tuareg Youth Movement for Justice and Equality; Dr Alessandra Giuffrida, an anthropologist and expert on Mali; and Alexandre Vautravers, an associate fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

“So far the international community and Malian government have sought a military solution to a political problem and, although we all agree that military intervention was perhaps necessary to remove the terrorist threats, the culture of corruption and internal divisions both in the north and south of Mali remain. If these internal divisions are not addressed through non-military actions, I do not see how just the political election can restore the fabric of civil society which is indeed a necessary condition for any future projects in Mali.”

– Dr Alessandra Giuffrida, anthropologist and expert on Mali