Monday, 17 March 2014

Mali: peace process loses momentum

It is clear from the array of reports and commentaries over the last month that the Mali peace process has lost momentum, if it ever had any.

The Ouagadougou Agreement of 18 June 2013 stipulated that an ‘inclusive dialogue’ should begin 60 days after the naming of a new government. That has not happened. Since then, the Mouvement National pour la LibĂ©ration de l’Azawad (MNLA) and the government have accused each other of reneging on agreements on security arrangements in Kidal.

There are two fundamental reasons.

First, the Bamako government has rarely shown much interest in its extreme northeast (Kidal), let alone most of its north (Azawad). It has never had more than a fleeting political or economic inclination to get to grips with the extremely taxing and deep-rooted problems of the region, and looks even less likely to do so today than it did this time last year.

Second, much blame must be placed on that vast, enigmatic entity, the ‘international community.’ It embraces the United Nations (and all its many agencies), the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States, the European Union, a host of NGOs, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and many other largely unaccountable entities, including NATO – not to mention the plethora of so-called experts, many of whom have little more than a passing acquaintance with the region or its people.

A month or so ago, most analysts recognised that the northern region of Kidal remained an MNLA stronghold. Also in the area are the French army, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, and troops of the Mali army. But they are not enough to secure the vast area. 

Many politicians and commentators in Bamako have been arguing that the French army should step aside and let a strengthened Mali army step in. But in 2013, the MNLA warned one reporter that ‘to plant a Malian flag in Kidal is an act of war.’

That remains pretty much the case today, except for one thing. The MNLA itself is now fragmenting into what appear to be at least three parties. While this may be a temporary state of affairs, it makes any sort of overall deal almost impossible in the near future.

For more news and expert analysis about the Sahara region, please see Sahara Focus.

© 2014 Menas Associates

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