Ethnic Tuareg Group Ends Ceasefire AgreementDecember 2, 2013 in Mali
An ethnic Tuareg separatist group in Mali has announced that it is ending a five-month ceasefire agreement that was reached with the Malian government back in June of this year. While the rebels have previously threatened to pull out of the peace deal, accusing the central government in Bamako of failing to fulfil its promises, this is the first time they have formally ended the ceasefire. The rebels have confirmed that they will take up arms, following violence in the northern city of Kidal, a move which will likely effect the security and stability of the entire country as it heads into a second round of parliamentary elections.
On Friday, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad announced that it would return to war against Mali’s army after indicating that one person was killed, and five others injured, in clashes with soldiers at an airport. The announcement, which has been described by the group’s leader as “…a declaration of war,” comes one day after clashes occurred between Malian troops and Tuareg protesters who prevented Prim Minister Oumar Tatam Ly from visiting the town of Kidal. According to Mahamadou Djeri Maiga, vice president of the MNLA, “what happened on Thursday is a declaration of war. We will deliver this war,” adding that “wherever we find the Malian army we will launch the assault against them. It will be automatic. The warnings are over.”
On Thursday, several hundred Tuareg demonstrators occupied an airport runway in order to prevent Mali’s Prime Minister from visiting the rebel-controlled north-eastern town of Kidal. While protesters indicated on Thursday that Malian soldiers had fired directly at “women and children who were demonstrating peacefully,” the central government has since indicated that its soldiers stationed at the airport had been “taken to task by uncontrollable elements” and had fired warning shots after being shot at and hit with stones. One person was killed in the clashes on Thursday, while three women and two children were injured. One of the women is in serious condition.
While Thursday’s incident has confirmed that tensions continue to exist between the Malian government and Tuareg rebels, the end of the ceasefire could potentially threaten security throughout Mali. Furthermore, this will likely have an impact on the second round of parliamentary elections, which are set to take place 15 December, and Mali’s overall process of returning to civilian rule after a Tuareg uprising that led to a coup last year and the occupation of the northern regions of the country by al-Qaeda-linked militants.
The end to the ceasefire could potentially threaten security in northern Mali. After eighteen months of a political and military crisis, the peace deal was signed between the rebels and the Malian government in June of this year. The June accord, which was signed in Burkina Faso’s capital Ouagadougou, effectively opened the way for voting to take place in Mali, including in Kidal. Two rounds of a presidential election occurred in July and August. Furthermore, up until the agreement was reached, the MNLA, whose ultimate goal is the independence of Azawad, had refused to allow any government soldiers or civil servants to enter the town. Under the June agreement, the rebels remained in Kidal however they were required to return to their barracks under the supervision of UN peacekeepers. They were also forced to stop carrying arms in public and dismantle all roadblocks.