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Mali signs half-baked peace deal without main ingredients: Tuareg rebels

Members of the CMA, the Coordination of Azawad Movements gather in Algiers during  a preliminary peace agreement, 14 May 2015
Members of the CMA, the Coordination of Azawad Movements gather in Algiers during a preliminary peace agreement, 14 May 2015 AFP/Farouk Batiche

Mali's government and allied fighters signed a long-awaited peace deal on Friday in a ceremony attended by numerous heads-of-state but boycotted by the country's main Tuareg-led rebel groups. The coalition previously initialled the document, but refused to sign it, saying the peace deal does not go far enough.

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"Mission accomplished, but not over." This is how Algeria's Foreign minister Ramtane Lamamra, described the preliminary peace agreement that was initialled by the Coordination of Azawad Movements, or CMA, on Thursday.

He's unlikely to be impressed then that the Tuareg-led alliance on Friday didn't even show up to the ceremony, let alone put ink to paper, to write more than just their initials.

The CMA wants more concessions from the Malian government first before giving their stamp of approval.

But some commentators argue the Tuareg rebels are dragging their feet. Negotiations have been ongoing for the past eight months, and on March 1st they delayed in signing the deal to have more time to consult with their grassroots.

The deal, known as the Algiers accord, because Algeria has been at the forefront of mediation talks, provides for the transfer of powers from Bamako to the north, an area the rebels refer to as “Azawad”.

The Tuaregs have been fighting for years to make Azawad an independent homeland for the Tuareg people and want the region to be recognized as a "political entity". In 2012, they seized control of several cities in the north, plunging the country into a grave political crisis and triggering a French military intervention.

The Mali government is thus reluctant to bow down to their separatist aspirations, fearing yet more chaos.

It thus begs the question as to why two groups which are diametrically opposed, are signing a peace deal in the first place?

"There's a lot of international pressure," explains Pierre Boilley, professor at Sorbonne University, coming especially from Algeria. "Algiers needs a political victory," he adds. "It's part of their plan to be the principal regional power in the sub-region."

Yet, it's a region that has been wracked by instability for years and been infested by Al-Qaeda linked groups. Now with the rise of Islamic State, decision-makers are even more determined to get the Coordination of Azawad Movements on board to isolate the jihadists.

This, especially after an islamist attack on a night club in Bamako left 15 people dead. An attack claimed by islamist leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar, whose group once controlled the north of Mali.

"But, it's the wrong move," argues Boilley. "Algeria has made an error in rushing this deal for its own interests…Instead of allowing the warring factions to talk face to face rather than constantly having a third party in between, we’ve ended up with a deal which will only be signed by some of the actors."

Indeed, it was only signed by Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop, three representatives of pro-Bamako militias and two minor members of the CMA rebellion, but not the Tuareg-dominated National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the High Council for the Unity of Azawad.

In short, concludes Boilley "it's not worth the paper it's written on."

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