OUAGADOUGOU – Tuareg and Arab rebels, who control northern Mali, announced on Thursday the suspension of negotiations with the Bamako government, dealing a blow to hopes of a durable peace.
The central issue is the future status of northern Mali, which the Tuareg movements call 'Azawad'. The rebels are seeking autonomy, something the central government is unwilling to discuss.
"Following multiple difficulties in implementing the Ouagadougou accord, caused notably by the Mali government's failure to respect its commitments," the Tuareg and Arab rebel groups "decided to suspend participation in the structures created by the said accord," they said in a joint statement.
The three movements involved dated the decision from September 18, the date of the second meeting of the joint committee set under the cease-fire accord signed in July.
The rebels seized control of northern Mali in the chaos that followed an army rebellion which overthrew the democratically-elected government of president Amadou Toumani Toure on March 22, 2012.
The rebelling army officers were angry at the level of support they had received to combat the separatist Tuareg rebellion which was already under way in the north.
The Tuareg seized control of an area larger than France before being ousted by al-Qaeda-linked groups that imposed a brutal interpretation of Islamic law on the local population, carrying out amputations and executions.
Their actions drew world-wide condemnation and their march south prompted France to launch a military offensive in January at Mali's behest to oust the Islamists.
The Ouagadougou accord, which ended the 18-month politico-military crisis in Mali, allowed for a presidential election in July which brought Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to power.
Under the deal the government and rebels agreed to respect the country's territorial integrity and to hold peace talks, focused on the status of the north. – AFP