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US: More Work Ahead for Mali Following Peace Deal

Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (L) embraces Tuareg rebel coalition representative Mahamadou Djery Maiga on June 20, 2015, in Bamako.

The Obama administration says Mali has a lot of work ahead following the signing of a peace agreement between Tuareg rebels and the government.

U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Bisa Williams told VOA's French to Africa Monday that the agreement requires all the signatories to designate representatives who will work on implementing the deal.

"They have to come up with people who are going to be permanently part of the secretariat, part of the working groups on the various thematic working topics. And they have to come up with proposals, and those proposals are going to have to be discussed and decided upon in a consensual way," Williams said.

Williams, who represented the Obama administration at the signing of the peace agreement in Bamako, said she was initially troubled that one of the main rebel leaders of the coalition Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) was not present. However, she said she learned Bilal Acherif was very ill, and said other CMA officials were present and engaged in the process.

"It’s important not to be distracted and not to find whatever excuse to try to criticize the CMA. They were there, they pledged their commitment to the accord, they signed the accord and so far, in our view, they have followed up and done everything they said they were going to do related to the accord," she said.

Mali's government and a coalition of loyalist militias signed the peace deal in May. But the CMA had been holding out for more concessions.

The peace agreement, which was brokered by Algeria, includes greater autonomy for northern Mali, but stops short of full autonomy. The Tuaregs and other northern Arab rebel groups have launched several uprisings against the government, complaining they have been marginalized and their problems ignored.

Previous peace deals in Mali have failed to hold.

Chaos that followed a 2012 military coup in Mali allowed the Tuaregs to seize several major town in the north. They were pushed out by al-Qaida linked Islamic militants, who were defeated themselves by a French military force.

A U.N. peacekeeping mission has been struggling to keep order in Mali.