Mali rebels sign land­mark peace deal

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY SERGE DANIEL

Mali’s Tuareg-led rebel al­liance signed a land­mark deal on Satur­day to end years of un­rest in a na­tion riven by eth­nic di­vi­sions and in the grip of a ji­hadist in­sur­gency.

The Al­giers Ac­cord aims to bring sta­bil­ity to the coun­try’s vast north­ern desert, cra­dle of sev­eral Tuareg up­ris­ings since the 1960s and a sanc­tu­ary for Is­lamist fight­ers linked to al-Qaida.

The agree­ment had al­ready been signed in May by the gov­ern­ment and loy­al­ist mili­tias but the Co­or­di­na­tion of Aza­wad Move­ments ( CMA), a coali­tion of rebel groups, had been hold­ing out un­til amend­ments were agreed.

Cheers broke out as Sidi Brahim Ould Si­dati, a mem­ber of the Arab Move­ment of Aza­wad, put his name to the doc­u­ment on be­half of the CMA in a tele­vised cer­e­mony at a packed con­fer­ence hall in the cap­i­tal Ba­mako.

“Trust me — we will make sure that no one is dis­ap­pointed. We will build a broth­erly Mali to­gether,” Pres­i­dent Ibrahim Boubacar Keita told an au­di­ence of north­ern com­mu­nity lead­ers and in­ter­na­tional spon­sors.

“To­day is a great day for all us chil­dren of Mali.”

Ram­tane La­mamra, the for­eign min­is­ter of Al­ge­ria, which has been lead­ing in­ter­na­tional ef­forts to me­di­ate the peace talks, hailed “a new be­gin­ning, a new op­por­tu­nity and a new des­tiny for this great Malian na­tion.”

‘Mo­ments of doubt’

The peace ac­cord, ham­mered out over months un­der the aus­pices of the U. N., calls for the cre­ation of elected re­gional as­sem­blies but stops short of au­ton­omy or fed­er­al­ism for north­ern Mali, known by lo­cals as Aza­wad.

The Malian gov­ern­ment and sev­eral armed groups signed the doc­u­ment on May 15 in Ba­mako, in a cer­e­mony spurned by the CMA.

The rebels fi­nally agreed to com­mit on June 5 af­ter win­ning a stip­u­la­tion that its fight­ers be in­cluded in a se­cu­rity force for the north, and for res­i­dents of the re­gion to be rep­re­sented bet­ter in gov­ern­ment in­sti­tu­tions, among other con­ces­sions.

U. N. Sec­re­tary- Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon con­grat­u­lated the sig­na­to­ries and me­di­a­tion team pledg­ing his sup­port for its im­ple­men­ta­tion.

“The ul­ti­mate re­spon­si­bil­ity for peace lies with Mali and the Malians, and the Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral urges all par­ties to con­tinue to work in good faith to ad­vance progress, and to fully im­ple­ment the pro­vi­sions of the cease- fire,” his spokesman said in a state­ment.

Mongi Hamdi, the head of MI­NUSMA, the United Na­tions peace­keep­ing mis­sion in Mali, warned that there would still be “mo­ments of doubt and dis­cour­age­ment, ten­sions and dis­trust” on the path to peace.

“The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity will al­ways be with you but can­not make peace for you,” he said, urg­ing the op­pos­ing sides to show “good faith and good­will” in im­ple­ment­ing the ac­cord.

Mali was shaken by a coup in 2012 that cleared the way for Tuareg sep­a­ratists to seize towns and cities of the north, an ex­panse of desert the size of Texas.

Al- Qaida- l i nked mil­i­tants then over­pow­ered the Tuareg, tak­ing con­trol of the re­gion for nearly 10 months un­til they were ousted in a French-led mil­i­tary of­fen­sive.

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