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11 juin 2014 3 11 /06 /juin /2014 19:45
Mali imposes national military service amid separatist tensions

 

06 June 2014 defenceWeb (Reuters)

 

Mali is to introduce compulsory national service for men and women aged 18 to 35, the government announced, after clashes between northern Tuareg separatists and the army last month.

 

A communique issued following Wednesday's cabinet meeting said President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's government had taken the decision to impose six-month national service "to develop a feeling of patriotism and the instinct for national defence".

 

"The legislative texts will be adopted by the end of the year so the scheme can start from 2015," Mahamar Mohamed El Moctar, chief of staff at the Youth Ministry, told Reuters on Thursday.

 

"As well as the military aspect, it will involve training in handling weapons and fostering in our youth a sense of citizenship, of civic spirit, of the nation and the homeland," he said, adding that national service would be compulsory for both men and women.

 

Mali's army suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Tuareg separatists last month after it attempted to seize their stronghold of Kidal. The army was quickly overrun by rebel forces as U.N. and French peacekeepers declined to intervene.

 

Popular faith in the army had already been shaken by the ease with which it was overrun in early 2012 by a coalition of Tuareg separatists and Islamist militants who seized the northern two thirds of Mali.

 

A series of student protests in recent months have created frustration at what some critics have called a lack of patriotism among youth, in the wake of last year's French-led war to liberate northern Mali from the Islamists.

 

"Our priority is not to prepare for war, as one might think in the current context, but to create a new citizen," Soubounou Djibril, secretary-general at the Youth Ministry, said of the national service plan.

 

Keita, elected by a landslide in August 2013, earned a reputation for toughness in crushing student protests as prime minister in the 1990s. He has promised to restore a sense of national pride in the landlocked former French colony.

 

Mali last had national service from 1983 to 1991.

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20 juin 2013 4 20 /06 /juin /2013 11:45
Mali signs deal with Tuareg separatist rebels

19 June 2013 defenceWeb (Reuters)

 

Mali signed a ceasefire deal with Tuareg separatist rebels, paving the way for government troops to return to the northern, rebel-held town of Kidal before a presidential election next month.

 

At the heart of a region plagued by poverty and Islamic militancy, Mali won a 3.25 billion euros ($4.35 billion) Western aid package last month aimed at shoring up democracy and helping it recover from a coup and an al Qaeda insurgency.

 

Tuesday's agreement - reached after nearly two weeks of talks mediated by regional powers, the United Nations and the European Union - foresees rebel groups disarming as part of a broader peace process to resolve Tuaregs' longstanding demands for greater autonomy for northern Mali, Reuters reports.

 

"The signing of this agreement represents a significant step in the stabilization process in Mali," said U.N. Special Representative to Mali Bert Koenders, who attended the signing ceremony in neighboring Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou.

 

The government in the capital Bamako has made clear that it wants its civilian administration and army reinstated in the rebel stronghold before the July 28 vote, which is meant to complete a democratic transition after the coup of March 2012.

 

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and the European Union's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton both welcomed the accord. "I call on all sides in Mali, united by this deal, to implement this agreement in its entirety for the greater good of their country," Fabius said in a statement.

 

TUAREG STRONGHOLD

 

Tuareg separatists regained control of Kidal, their traditional fiefdom, after Islamists withdrew following a French-led military campaign that ended the 10-month occupation of the northern two-thirds of Mali by al Qaeda-linked fighters.

 

The Malian army had threatened to seize back the town if no agreement was reached. It advanced towards Kidal in early June, capturing the village of Anefis in the first clashes in months with the MNLA Tuareg separatist rebels.

 

Mediators have worked round the clock to salvage the ceasefire deal after Mali's interim president, Dioncounda Traore, last week balked at a draft that imposed conditions on the army's return to Kidal.

 

Mali's minister for territorial administration, Colonel Moussa Sinko Coulibaly, signed the deal on behalf of the government, a Reuters witness at the ceremony said.

 

Representatives of two separatist Tuareg groups inked the agreement, witnessed by the mediators at the Burkina Faso presidential palace.

 

Mali's chief negotiator Tiebile Drame had told Malian state radio earlier on Tuesday the deal would allow Malian troops to return to Kidal swiftly, followed by civilian administrators.

 

"Now what remains is to agree on the practical details of the deployment," Drame said. "Everyone also agreed to implement the other key element of the consensus, namely the requirement that armed groups in northern Mali give up their weapons."

 

There is widespread opposition in Bamako to any deal that would make concessions to the MNLA.

 

The group is blamed by many in southern Mali for opening the door to the Islamists with an uprising last year, and its leaders face arrest warrants for alleged crimes committed during their occupation of the north.

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5 juin 2013 3 05 /06 /juin /2013 17:45
Malian army clashes with Tuareg rebels, heading for Kidal

05 June 2013 14:24 defenceWeb (Reuters)

 

The Malian army said it seized the village of Anefis following heavy fighting with the Tuareg separatist MNLA and was heading towards the nearby town of Kidal, the rebels' last stronghold.

 

It was the first fighting between the MNLA and the Malian army since a French-led military offensive launched in January. The French campaign ended Islamists' 10-month domination of Mali's desert north but left the Tuareg rebels in control of Kidal.

 

Mali's interim government accused the MNLA of violence against non-Tuaregs on Monday. The army has vowed to retake Kidal before national elections scheduled for late July, Reuters reports.

 

"Our troops have taken Anefis this morning after intense fighting," said army spokesman Colonel Souleymane Maiga, adding that the fighting had begun early on Wednesday.

 

Moussa Ag Acharatoumane, Paris-based spokesman for the MNLA, said in a statement there was fighting between the Malian forces and MNLA fighters in Anefis but did not provide further details.

 

The MNLA has rejected Bamako's calls for it to lay down its weapons, saying it would resist any attempt to retake Kidal. It has said it is open to negotiations with the government if northern Mali's right to self-determination is recognized.

 

The MNLA was not targeted by the French offensive and has since been able to retake some areas, including Kidal. But this has strained relations between France and the transitional government in the southern capital, Bamako.

 

The MNLA rose up early last year, calling for the creation of a Tuareg homeland in northern Mali. It joined forces with al Qaeda-associated fighters and together they overran the north, but the better armed Islamists quickly took control of the rebellion.

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