The African Union’s Mission to Mali and the Sahel says the situation in Mali’s north appears to be calm following a resumption of the second round of peace negotiations between the government in Bamako and rebel groups this week in neighboring Algeria.
Issaka Souare, special adviser to AU mission head Pierre Buyoya, says the parties at the peace talks seem to be committed to ending the conflict in Mali’s north in spite of recent “skirmishes” in areas formally controlled by the armed groups.
“We are aware of some inter-communal violence and even intra-movement confrontation, but that was about a week ago. Since the beginning of this week we haven’t received information about such confrontations on the ground,” said Souare.
Analysts have expressed concern that some of the armed groups have been unwilling to relinquish the positions they control and are re-arming ahead of a possible resumption of the conflict if the peace negotiations fail.
But Souare said it is too early to conclude that the armed groups are using the peace talks to arm themselves.
“It is premature to say that …because it is normal for negotiators and the parties that are involved in these talks to try to aim high so that they will get to an acceptable level of their request or what they are calling for. So it is premature to judge at this stage,” said Souare.
He said security has improved in parts of the country’s north formally controlled by the armed groups. Souare said the rebels have indicated their commitment to the peace negotiations to resolve the conflict.
“What we are seeing and the public pronouncements of the various parties at the negotiating table is that they are all committed towards finding a peaceful resolution to this conflict,” said Souare.
The armed groups and the government signed a cessation of hostilities agreement at the first round of peace negotiations on July 24.
The agreement, Souare said, was aimed at preventing a possible resumption of violence while the peace negotiations continue.
“So long as these groups are at the negotiating table, there is some commitment until we can see in a reality that some are not committed to this process,” said Souare.
He said the negotiations seem to be making strides after some of the armed groups met in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, to iron out their differences as part of an effort to help expedite the talks to end the conflict.