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Mali: Peace Deal Concluded

(June 26, 2015) On June 20, 2015, Tuareg rebels, who have been in conflict with authorities in Mali for years, signed a peace accord with the government. The accord gives the northern part of the country, which includes the cities of Timbuktu and Gao, partial autonomy. The Tuareg had taken over that part of Mali in 2012; the region was later dominated by an al-Qaeda-linked group and after that was controlled by a military force led by the French in 2013. (Mali’s Tuareg Rebels Sign Peace Deal, BBC NEWS (June 20, 2015); Serge Daniel, Mali’s Tuareg-Led Rebels Sign Landmark Peace Deal, DEFENSE NEWS (June 20, 2015).)

The Tuareg are a pastoral, Berber-speaking people of North and West Africa who are known to cross national borders. (Tuareg, ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA (last visited June 22, 2015).) Tuareg and Arab groups in Mali’s northern region, an area sometimes called Azawad, have long complained that the more prosperous south has ignored their part of the country. (Mali’s Tuareg Rebels Sign Peace Deal, supra.)

The agreement was signed by Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and a representative of Azawad-based rebels. The deal had been arranged by Algeria, following concessions made by Mali’s government. Arrest warrants that had been issued for rebel leaders were rescinded, and a new security plan for the northern region will be developed. Keita said of the agreement, “[h]and in hand, let us make Mali better, more brotherly, more united than ever. … Long live a reconciled Mali! Long live peace!” (Id.)

The Algerian Foreign Minister, Ramtane Lamamra, called the peace accord “a new beginning, a new opportunity and a new destiny for this great Malian nation.” (Daniel, supra.) The head of the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, Mongi Hamdi, urged the factions in the country to show “good faith and good will” as the agreement is implemented and said that the country will still have “moments of doubt and discouragement, tensions and distrust. … The international community will always be with you but cannot make peace for you.” (Id.)

The region remains unstable, and the country faces future difficulties in integrating its various populations. According to the U. N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the civil conflicts have resulted in internal displacement and international movement of refugees into Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Niger. Including those refugees who have returned to Mali, the number of displaced individuals that may need assistance as of January 2015 was close to 240,000. (2015 UNHCR Country Operations Profile – Mali, UNHCR website (last visited June 22, 2013).)