Washington D.C - As fighting rages on in the North between Tuareg groups and the Malian Army, Algerian diplomats continue to claim that the two warring factions are “ready” to sign a peace agreement.
Washington D.C – As fighting rages on in the North between Tuareg groups and the Malian Army, Algerian diplomats continue to claim that the two warring factions are “ready” to sign a peace agreement.
Algeria’s military intelligence agency’s (known as DRS) hidden agenda and its disdain of key Tuareg leaders are creating a dangerous situation in Mali pushing the country toward an all-out civil war. The DRS efforts in Mali are counterproductive and self-serving. It is time for a regional mediation effort to stop the bloodshed before it is too late.
Touareg leaders, including chief Moussa Ag Assarid, and the Azawad people have soundly and collectively rejected the Algiers accord. As the Algerian diplomats with the help and direction of their French counterparts contend that the current agreement between Militants Touareg and the Bamako government will stop the bloodshed, Azawad activists insist that the leaders negotiating on their behalf are not representative of the Touareg population.
In a statement issued in the aftermath of the signature of the Algiers agreement, the Revolutionary Counsel of the Azawad “(Conseil révolutionnaire du Mouvement national de libération de l’Azawad)” described the accord as “irresponsible” and ‘a betrayal”. The Revolutionary Council declared that “the Algerian state cannot mediate in the conflict between Azawad in Mali”. It accuses DRS of using its wealth and oil money “to infiltrate and corrupt the leadership of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA)”.
Touareg opposed to this accord have singled out Bilal Ag Acherif for criticism. They have accused the well-known leader of the MNLA and a key figure in the negotiations of taking money from the DRS and turning against the interest of his people.
Bilal Ag Achérif, a persistent DRS critic who the Algerian press described in an article last week as a “Moroccan agent working to sabotage the work of the Algerian diplomacy,” switch sides in the last minute and joined the Algerian positions at the dismay of his community.
The Coordination of Azawad Movements (A coalition of Touareg rebel groups known as CMA) has made it clear on several occasions that the Algerians are partial in his conflict. Weary of Malian Touareg nationalism and its potential impact on the political aspirations of its non-Arab minorities, Algeria rejects Azawad’s self-rule ambitions. And yet the CMA swung its policies and signed the Allegis treaty. According to leaders of the Azawad Revolutionary Counsel, DRS “threats and manipulation” is behind the CMA change of heart.
In fact, The DRS has a history of buying its way into Northern Mali. For years, Algerian intelligence services have had their local Touareg proxies keep tab on the populous in Mali.
The ongoing violence highlights the DRS’s shortcomings as it tries to force the Touareg and the Government to seal a treaty when key differences, including the issue of Azawad self-rule, remain unresolved. In fact, Algiers has taken pains to please France and outshine its archrival Morocco rather than address the underlying problems facing the people of Mali.
While Malians were dying in fighting around the city of Menaka, the Algerian press was touting the success of their diplomacy. The so-called Algiers accord leaves open the question of Azawad’s self-rule and the Touareg political identity within the Malian political spectrum.
Popular Azawad chiefs continue to voice his suspicions over the true intentions of the Algerians in Mali. They know that the DRS will never accept a “federal system in Mali” that will give the Touareg freedom and political rights. The Algerian plans are more about the status quo in Algeria than a new progressive political system in Mali.
As in past attempts, when DRS used surrogates as “legitimate” representatives of the Touareg people during negotiations, the DRS plan will not survive the test of implementation and will fail to bring peace to the region. Touareg are leery of Algerian power and don’t trust the DRS. This accord will keep an unsatisfactory status quo that allows armed groups to keep their weapons and leaves Touareg status unaltered.
Unfortunately, Algerian “peace plan” rarely works in Mali. It is generally the case that if diplomacy does not have the consciousness to address the real issues platform, its efforts will not succeed. For now, France the former colonial power is the only winner. Paris is solidifying its military presence in the Sahel and tightening its economic grip on regions’ mineral riches.
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