Tuareg-led rebels in Mali have signed a landmark peace deal, in a bid to end years of unrest in a nation battered by ethnic divisions and al-Qaeda-linked militancy.
Mali’s national television on Saturday showed Sidi Brahim Ould Sidati, a member of the Arab Azawad movement, putting his name under the document in a ceremony in the capital, Bamako.
The agreement, known as the Algiers Accord, aims to end the hostilities in Mali’s vast northern desert, where Tuareg rebels have launched several uprisings since the 1960s. The area has also been a main sanctuary for militants linked to al-Qaeda.
The government and loyalist militias had already signed the accord in mid-May, but the Coordination of Azawad Movements, known by its French acronym, CMA, which was represented by Sidati in the Saturday ceremony, had abstained from signing the accord until its desired amendments were made two weeks ago.
Foreign ministers of the Netherlands and France, Bert Koenders and Laurent Fabius respectively, welcomed CMA’s commitment to the peace deal and called on the government in Bamako to ensure the deal was implemented.
“This responsibility lies primarily with the Malian actors and the government and armed groups must regain mutual trust — the only possibility for progress,” Koenders and Fabius said in a joint op-ed in the French daily Le Monde published on Friday.
“The political party leaders also have an important role to play, as well as civil society, including women and youth. In a word, reconciliation is the business of all Malians,” the op-ed added.
Also attending the Saturday ceremony was Ramtane Lamamra, the Algerian foreign minister and a leading mediator in Mali’s peace talks.
The United Nations has also sponsored the efforts for hammering out the peace accord, which allows the establishment of elected regional assemblies in northern Mali. Creating federal states, one of the main demands of the rebels during the negotiations, however, did not materialize.