Mali’s junta has ended a 2015 UN-brokered peace deal with Tuareg separatist rebels with “immediate effect” in a move that risks further destabilising the conflict-torn West African nation.
Tensions between the central authorities and the northern separatists have resurfaced since the military consolidated power in two coups in 2020 and 2021, teamed up with Russian military contractor Wagner Group, and kicked out French forces and UN peacekeepers.
In a statement read on state television on Thursday, the junta said it was no longer possible to continue with the agreement due to other signatories not sticking to their commitments, as well as “hostile acts” by chief mediator Algeria.
Malian authorities were angered when, in February, Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune rolled out the red carpet to former rebels who had signed the agreement. The statement described the ex-rebels as “terrorists”.
It said the so-called Algiers Accord, brokered by the United Nations in 2015, was no longer workable and would be ended “with immediate effect”.
The CMA, an alliance of rebel groups formed by Mali’s semi-nomadic Tuareg people, said it was not surprised by the decision.
“We have been expecting it since they brought in Wagner, chased out Minusma (the UN peacekeeping group) and started hostilities by attacking our positions on the ground,” said CMA spokesperson Elmaouloud Ramadane.
“We knew that the aim was to terminate the agreement.”
UN call to resume dialogue
Located on the Sahara desert’s southern fringe, Mali has been plagued by violence since 2012, when Islamist militants hijacked an uprising by Tuareg groups who complained of government neglect and sought autonomy for the desert region they call Azawad.
The Tuaregs signed the peace accord with the Bamako government in 2015, but the militant groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have killed thousands of civilians in insurgencies that have since spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
The Tuareg peace agreement had recently come under increasing strain as fighting between the two sides picked up again last August.
In early January, the UN Security Council warned of the importance of sticking with the 2015 peace deal and called for all parties to resume dialogue.
Any escalation with the separatists would pile extra pressure on the Malian army, which is already struggling in the fight against Islamist groups with violence worsening since the military takeover.