BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — A coalition of former rebels in Mali announced on Wednesday it is withdrawing from a political dialogue meant to implement a 2015 peace agreement in the troubled West African nation.
Spokesman Mossa Ag Attaher told The Associated Press the decision by the Coordination of Movements of Azawad comes in response to comments by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita indicating that certain parts of the fragile accord could be revisited.
“The essential is in preserving the spirit” of the deal, the president said in a national speech on Sunday.
The coalition’s spokesman said they could not agree with that approach. “We believe that there’s a problem because for us all the provisions of the peace agreement are paramount and their implementation is our priority to achieve a new and peaceful Mali,” Attaher said.
Mali’s minister for national reconciliation, Lassine Bouare, said he would not comment on the withdrawal. The coalition includes ethnic Arabs and Tuaregs who seek autonomy in northern Mali.
This is the latest challenge to the implementation of the peace deal, which was signed after turmoil that began when mutinous soldiers overthrew the president in 2012. Extremists quickly exploited the power vacuum, leading to a French-led military effort that ousted the jihadists from power in 2013.
The West African nation remains under threat from extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. The extremists have moved from the arid north into more populated central Mali since 2015, stoking animosity and violence between ethnic groups.
A recent report to the United Nations Security Council by the panel of experts monitoring sanctions in Mali said the signatories of the peace deal have failed to accelerate its implementation as promised amid growing rivalries and popular resentment against the agreement.
The panel said the 2015 agreement has come under attack from political actors, opinion leaders, community activists and the media who say it would be “a reward to minority communities from the north that would threaten the territorial integrity of Mal and render other communities vulnerable.”
Fundamental institutional reforms were interrupted after the prime minister resigned in April, and “general disarmament, demobilization and reintegration has not been started for 63,000 registered combatants,” the U.N. experts said.
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed.
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