Mali govt to probe Tuareg rebel leaders as 2015 peace deal seems to crumble

Mali’s military government has announced an investigation into the Tuareg rebel leaders who signed a peace agreement in 2015 and now accuse the government of failing to comply with it, as experts worry that the deal crucial to establishing a measure of stability in the country’s north is collapsing.

The public prosecutor at the Bamako Court of Appeal on Tuesday ordered the probe into the rebel leaders who at times have sought to create the independent state of Azawad and have attacked Mali’s security forces in recent months.

The government of the West African nation has referred to the rebels as a “terrorist group.”

The developments could mean more violence in a region already under threat from fighters linked to al Qaeda and where both UN peacekeepers and French forces have withdrawn in recent months.

The Tuareg rebellion in Mali’s north has been a source of conflict for decades. More than a decade of instability has followed their rebellion in 2013, though in 2015 the Tuareg rebel groups signed the peace deal with the government that was welcomed by the United Nations.

In a televised statement, the public prosecutor announced that specialists in fighting terrorism and transnational organized crime would launch an investigation against “terrorist leaders and other signatories” to that agreement.

Key leaders of the Tuareg rebellion were named in the statement as well as leaders of the al Qaeda-linked JNIM group.

In recent months, some rebels have abandoned the agreement, signaling a rise in tensions between them and Mali’s military junta.

Analysts have warned that the fragile peace agreement that had slowed violence over the years may crumble.

“We can effectively say that the 2015 peace agreement has collapsed,” said Shaantanu Shankar, country analyst for Africa at the Economist Intelligence Unit.

“The Malian junta is facing serious problems with jihadi terrorism on one front and at the same time trying to fight an armed political movement and the rebels in the north, so the junta is overstretched,” he said.

Mali’s military recently seized control of the northern town of Kidal, dominated by the rebels for nearly a decade.

The military will focus on sustaining stability in the town as well as in central and southern Mali, which play a crucial role in the nation’s economy, Shankar said.



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