BAMAKO: Mali’s government and allied fighters signed a peace accord on Friday in a ceremony attended by numerous heads-of-state but missing the crucial backing of the war-scarred nation’s main Tuareg-led rebel groups.

The Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) had provisionally initialled the document a day earlier but is demanding concessions and its three principal factions did not attend the rubber-stamping ceremony in the Malian capital Bamako.

The so-called “Algiers Accord” aims to bring stability to the north, the cradle of several Tuareg uprisings since the 1960s, and a stronghold for Al Qaeda-linked jihadists which have been regrouping since they were ousted by the French in 2013.

It was signed by Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop, three representatives of pro-Bamako militias and two minor members of the CMA rebellion, as well as a team of mediators led by Algeria.

The international community has been increasing pressure on the CMA to get on board the peace process as a means of isolating the jihadists, particularly since an Islamist attack on March 7 in Bamako in which two Europeans died.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, who chairs the African Union, attended along with around 20 heads of government and state from across the region.

The televised ceremony — which follows months of UN-backed negotiations — went ahead against the odds amid repeated recent violations of a ceasefire deal agreed between the army and various pro-government and rebel militias. But it risked being largely devoid of substance without the signatures of the Tuareg-dominated National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad and High Council for the Unity of awad.

Published in Dawn May 16th , 2015

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