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Mali’s rebels sign peace deal

By on June 21, 2015

Rebels in Mali have signed a peace deal with the government, offering partial autonomy to the north of the country.
An alliance of Tuareg-led rebels and the Malian government signed a peace deal on Saturday meant to draw a line under a 2012 uprising and allow the authorities to focus on tackling Islamist militants in the desert north.

Tuareg-led rebels had refused to sign an initial peace agreement last month, but came on board after their demands were met by the government.

Tuaregs seized part of northern Mali, including Timbuktu, in 2012.

A French-led military campaign in early 2013 liberated northern Mali from al Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels, who seized control of it after the Tuareg uprising sparked a military coup that plunged Mali into chaos.
Azawad is sparsely-populated but includes the historic cities of Timbuktu and Gao.
In the wake of the most recent uprising, Tuareg groups called for more concessions from the government in Bamako.
The peace agreement, brokered by Algeria, was not signed until those concessions were granted.
New security plans as well as a development programme for the Azawad region will now be agreed. On Thursday, the government dropped arrest warrants against rebel leaders.
The government has also said it is happy to devolve more authority to the region, but not to give it full autonomy.
“Hand in hand, let us make Mali better, more brotherly, more united than ever,” president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said at a ceremony in Bamako.

The government has said it is prepared to devolve more authority under Mali’s existing decentralised structure, but rejects demands for full autonomy within a federal system.

The Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General for Mali, Mongi Hamdi, said the 11,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission (MINUSMA) would also support the deal’s implementation.

Northern Mali continues to be hit by violence and Islamists have made occasional gains in the region. According to the UN, close to 140,000 Malian refugees continue to live abroad.
Since being deployed two years ago, 49 people have died while working for the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.

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