New Ceasefire Agreement Signed To End Mali Conflict

The BBC News reports that pro-government fighters and rebel forces have signed a new ceasefire agreement on Wednesday, September 20th, in hopes of ending the armed conflict in northern Mali. Since the 2012 Tuareg rebellion and consequent military coup, Mali has faced a multitude of internal problems, including a failed political system and mounting rebel and terrorist attacks. There have been several attempts to end the cycle of violence, including the 2015 Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation brokered by Algeria. However, fighting between the pro-government militia and the Tuareg rebels, who are supported by al-Qaeda, continued and the agreement was breached.

According to BBC News, Mali is one of the deadliest places to serve for UN Peacekeepers and has been described as “perilous” by the Mali President himself. The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was established by the UN Security Council in April 2013. Its core mandate was to support the political process in Mali and carry out security related tasks in attempts to stabilize the country, and there are currently 15,209 total uniformed personnel and 1,350 civilians in Mali working on MINUSMA. The peacekeeping operation has suffered several casualties in 2017 alone, including nine deaths in August on MINUSMA bases in Timbuktu and Douentza. Two recent attacks on September 6th left two Chadian peacekeepers dead and two more seriously injured, and a September 24 attack that killed three Bangladeshi peacekeepers. Following these attacks, UN Secretary General Antonio Gutierrez released a statement stating that “attacks against peacekeepers may constitute war crimes under international law.”

At the UN General Assembly’s annual general debate, Mali President Ibrahim Keita called on member states to help fund the G5 Sahel, a regional counter-terror force, stating “I call on friendly countries and partner international organizations to support the G5 Sahel joint force with equipment, logistics, communications. Emergency medical evacuations and the fight against improvised explosive devices.” The G5 Sahel is scheduled to deploy in November to combat terrorism, is comprised of Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Chad. The French government has pledged $9 million to the G5, including 70 vehicles and 5,000 French troops who are already deployed in Mali. Additionally, the European Union pledged $57 million to the new force in a show of solidarity.

This latest ceasefire agreement calls for an “immediate halt to hostilities.” Nonetheless, there is skepticism as to whether it will succeed in ending the violence in Mali. Although the details of the ceasefire have yet to be released, the agreement calls for “joint patrols between regular troops and members of the two armed troops.” This collaborative effort is promising because there is a compromise between the two parties, and could potentially help restore peace and stability in Mali.

Luisa Tembo