Mali’s main Tuareg-led rebels to sign peace deal June 20: chief

MALIThe head of Mali’s main Tuareg-led rebel groups said on Friday that his movement will sign a final deal to end the conflict in the west African nation on June 20.

The Coordination of Azawad Movements headed by Bilal Ag Cherif initialled a peace agreement with the Malian government in Algiers on May 14 but held out on a final deal until some changes were made.

“We will sign the peace accord on June 20,” Cherif said following talks in Algiers on security issues.

According to a document seen by AFP the signing ceremony will be held in Bamako.

It will come more than three weeks after the Malian government and several armed groups signed the so-called “Algiers Accord” at a ceremony also in Bamako, but spurned by the CMA.

The Algiers Accord aims to bring stability to northern Mali, cradle of several Tuareg uprisings since the 1960s and a stronghold for jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda.

Cherif and government representatives have been holding talks in Algiers over the past few days to thrash out security and political concerns raised by the CMA.

According to the Bamako government, they will sign later on Friday a “security accord” in Algiers, paving the way for the final agreement to be signed by the CMA in Mali later this month.

The CMA has been demanding that an amended final deal recognise “Azawad”, the name used by the Tuareg for the northern part of Mali, as a “geographic, political and juridical entity”.

The Algiers Accord calls for the creation of elected regional assemblies but not autonomy or federalism, in deference to government concerns of separatism.

Mali was shaken by a coup in 2012 which cleared the way for Tuareg separatists to seize the towns and cities of the vast northern desert.

Al-Qaeda-linked militants then overpowered the Tuareg, seizing control of northern Mali for nearly 10 months until they were ousted in a French-led military offensive.

But Mali remains deeply divided, with the Tuareg and Arab populations of the north accusing sub-Saharan ethnic groups in the more prosperous south of marginalising them.

Northern Mali has seen an upsurge in attacks by pro-government militias and various factions of the Tuareg-led rebellion, leaving many dead on both sides.

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