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Mali: Bamako formalizes dialogue with al-Qaeda jihadists

2021-10-21T08:18:03.611Z

The Malian junta formalized the dialogue with jihadist leaders linked to AQIM which Paris has always opposed, further aggravating the tensions between France and Mali.



The Malian authorities have officially entrusted the Ministry of Religious Affairs with the file of the dialogue with certain jihadist groups including the GSIM (linked to al-Qaeda) and have openly communicated on a subject hitherto kept relatively confidential, at a delicate moment in relations with France.

Read also The city of Kidal, heart of the divide between France and Mali

The reality of discussions between the authorities and certain jihadist groups has not been in doubt for the experts for a long time, even before former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, overthrown in August 2020 by the military, recognized in February 2020 the existence of contacts. While claiming to be in favor of dialogue, the junta now in power in Bamako and the transitional government it installed had until then remained rather discreet on the issue.

"

The Malian people have been calling for discussions with these groups for years

,"

Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maïga

said recently in

Jeune Afrique

.

In Afghanistan, the Americans ended up arguing with the Taliban

”.

Asked about the existence of negotiations, in particular for the release of hostages, he replied: “

Of course, we continue to work to free the hostages.

But we don't need to yell it from the rooftops

”.

"Mission of good offices"

The Ministry of Religious Affairs last week gave a more formal twist to this dialogue. In a statement published on October 13 and went unnoticed until RFI information on Tuesday, the Minister of Religious Affairs, Mahamadou Koné, indicated that his services had been charged with a "

mission of good offices in the direction of radical armed groups.

". He himself charged the High Islamic Council of Mali (HCIM) with the implementation "

on the ground

", during a meeting on 12 October. The public authorities will set "

red lines not to be exceeded in the framework of the negotiations

", he declared.

"

The mission of good offices towards radical armed groups has existed in the past

," the statement said. But she was "

anchored

" in the office of the Prime Minister and delegated to Imam Mahmoud Dicko, in a personal capacity although he chaired the High Islamic Council until 2019, he adds. The HCIM is a structure for dialogue with the authorities bringing together leaders and religious organizations.

For several months, the High Islamic Council of Mali has been playing the role entrusted to it by the high authorities: to engage in dialogue with radical groups.

This is not new,

”the ministry's chief of staff, Dame Seck, told AFP.

What is, is that "

administratively it is now clear that it is our ministry which has the file in hand and which closely follows the process of the High Islamic Council

", he said.

Groups affiliated with

al-Qaeda

"

From now on, all the good offices missions will be formalized,

" said the ministry's statement, which also reported on Facebook the meeting with the HCIM. A dialogue with the jihadists has so far seemed to concern mainly the two jihadist leaders Amadou Koufa and Iyad Ag Ghaly and their groups affiliated with al-Qaida, and not the Islamic State organization.

France, Mali's main ally, has always refused this dialogue.

Relations between Bamako and Paris are going through their most serious crisis since the beginning of the French engagement in 2013. The Malian Prime Minister denounced as an “

abandonment in full flight

” the French decision to reduce its workforce in the Sahel by 2023 On Tuesday, the French ambassador to Mali was summoned to the Foreign Ministry after President Emmanuel Macron left the ruling military junta to "

invite the French authorities to restraint, avoiding judgments of value

”.

To read also In Mali, "

Wagner against Sisyphus

"

Paris considers that Bamako's possible recourse to the Russian company of mercenaries Wagner is incompatible with the French presence.

Responding to former President Keïta's remarks on the opening of a dialogue in 2020, Iyad Ag Ghaly said he was ready to do so, but had conditioned it on the prior departure of French soldiers.

He had reaffirmed his attachment to Sharia law.

Source: lefigaro

All news articles on 2021-10-21

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