An alliance of political separatists has signed a ground-breaking peace deal with the government of Mali, a hopeful step toward ending decades of fighting in the troubled West African nation.
The Algerian-brokered agreement, signed by a representative of the rebel Coordination of Movements of Azawad, will grant greater autonomy to sparsely populated and restive northern Mali, a bid to end a cycle of uprisings there since the nation gained its independence from France in 1960. The Algiers Accord had been signed in May by a coalition of loyalist armed groups, but the CMA held out for concessions on the return of refugees, security arrangements and development plans for the region. These were agreed with the government this month.
Separatists have rebelled four times since independence. In 2012, they formed an alliance with Islamist militants to seize the desert north. A French-led military intervention scattered the insurgents, although isolated, sporadic attacks have continued.
The deal will leave the issue of Azawad's political identity for a national debate between Malian parties. 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. In signing the agreement, the CMA said it is placing hope for a fair settlement with the government.
The United States congratulates the Malian people, including the parties to the peace negotiations undertaken in Algiers, for the full signature of the Accord for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali, achieved June 21 in Bamako. We commend the parties for their commitment to compromise and to resolving their differences through dialogue. We wish to thank the Algerian government for serving as lead mediator throughout the negotiations and underscore our continuing support for international peacekeepers there as we enter the implementation phase of the peace process.
We will continue to stand by the Malian people as they take the lead in implementing the Accord and bringing about the future of peace and prosperity that all Malians deserve.