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Fresh attacks challenge Mali's peace deal

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François Delattre, the Permanent Representative of France to the United Nations in New York, October 2 2017 Reuters/Brendan McDermid

A spate of attacks in central Mali left nearly forty people dead on Thursday, just hours after the United Nations urged rival groups to implement a 2015 peace deal, or face sanctions. Critics argue the peace deal may be part of the problem.


More than two years after a landmark peace deal was signed between Malian authorities and separatist Tuareg rebels, insecurity has not only grown but spread to the center of the country.

At least 26 people were killed Thursday in a landmine explosion that was targeting the UN's peacekeeping mission in Mali, known by its French acronym MINUSMA.

Two further attacks within the space of 24 hours left seven jihadists and two soldiers dead, also in central Mali.

The unrest comes just hours after the UN Security Council threatened to impose sanctions on anyone found blocking the 2015 Algiers Accord.

Not everyone is convinced that sanctions are the right approach.

"It's even a question of whether or not the sanctions are actually going to be imposed on anyone or if this is just the threat of sanctions," Andrew Lebovich, a visiting fellow with the European Council of Foreign Relations, told RFI.

The UN last brandished the threat of sanctions in 2017, to little effect.

No guarantees

This time round sanctions may impact members of the Malian government given their restrictions on travel and banking, but implementation of the peace deal won't guarantee stability, reckons Lebovich.

"The more central regions of Mali--Mopti, Ségou-- aren't part of the peace accords," he says. These are the same areas where this week's attacks took place.

In 2015 when the Algiers Accord was first signed by an alliance of Tuareg-led rebels and the Malian government, its aim was to assuage the aspirations for autonomy of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), and to calm the conflict in the north which had triggered a French-led war.

Violence today has shifted to the center.

It's not just the geographical scope that's wrong with the peace deal reckons Emmanuel Dupuy, president of the Paris-based Institute of Perspective and Security Studies, but its composition.

It includes people who "are not considered to be terrorist organizations and who are cooperating with the Malian government," he told RFI, adding that the perpetrators of the recent attacks never signed the peace agreement, rendering it in essence useless.

Bad deal

For Lebovich, the Algiers Accord may have been flawed from the start.

"We've seen other armed groups spring up since the signature of the Accord demanding to be part of the peace process," he says. "So there's a risk that if these groups aren't dealt with, there's going to be more tensions and more threats of violence, but right now there's not really a framework in place to integrate them."

The framework that does exist, calls for decentralization, the establishment of a regional territorial police force, and demobilizing and reintegrating combatants. So far there's been little to no progress on any of these provisions.

The UN, and France in particular, want that to change, in light of elections scheduled for this year.

"The aim is to push the government of the newly-elected prime minister Soumeylou Boubèye Maiga, and the president IBK,(Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta) to have results in the fight against terrorism," says Dupuy.

Regional elections have already been postponed five times, and patience is running out.

Revised peace deal?

The international community is reluctant to go back to the drawing board, says Lebovich.

"No one is keen to do this process again, they're certainly not looking to restart the peace accords so there is this idea that as long as the accords are implemented it won't be perfect but it will be a start."

Mali's foreign minister, Tieman Hubert Coulibaly, told the Council Tuesday that his government would complete the peace process.

"I don't see a concrete effect on the ground," reckons Dupuy, "but I see a concrete political effect: putting more pressure on IBK to deal with the security agenda which he has not been willing or capable of doing till now."