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Cease-Fire Deal Reached Between Mali Government, Tuareg Fighters

  • Nico Colombant

Mali's government and ethnic-Tuareg fighters are pursuing peace talks in Libya, after reaching a cease-fire deal that is to take effect Friday. Meanwhile, Niger's government is making no progress in its attempts to crush another ethnic Tuareg rebellion. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from our regional bureau in Dakar.

The cease-fire signed by Mali government delegates and representatives of rebel leader Ibrahim Ag Bahanga is to take effect Friday.

Negotiators in Tripoli are also working on securing rebel-held hostages as well as reducing the government's military presence in northern Mali, where fighting escalated in recent weeks.

Libya is also considering a financial aid package for the impoverished desert region where the rebels have been active.

A researcher at the South-African based Institute for Security Studies, David Zounmenou, says he hopes the deal will not be ignored.

"Hopefully, they are going to deploy the necessary political will for the implementation of this agreement, so that we do not experience the atrocities, the kidnappings and the destruction that we have witnessed over the past few weeks," he said.

He says it also shows the importance of Libya in efforts to solve chronic problems in the north African region. A previous peace deal between rebels and Mali's government, signed in Algeria, has been ineffective.

"I have been pointing out that for so many years now that Libya has a very important role to play in bringing Tuareg and government authorities around the same table, to redefine or maybe to review the previous agreements that have been signed and given new direction to the process of peace in the interest of stability and national development," said Zounmenou.

About two million Tuareg live in West Africa, straddled between Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Algeria, and Libya.

Recently, there has been a resurgence of fighting in northern Niger, but Niger's government is refusing to negotiate with what it calls bandits and traffickers.

Zounmenou says he believes Mali's approach is better.

"It creates demarcation from the position of the neighboring country in Niger whose leaders and authorities persist in their militaristic approach to the crisis," he said.

London-based Amnesty International is denouncing alleged extra-judicial killings against civilians by Niger's army in the Agadez region where the rebellion has been active. It says at least eight civilians were arbitrarily executed by soldiers between March 22 and March 25.

Officials from Niger were not immediately available for comment on the report.