Mali: dialogue with jihadists questioned

DDialogue with the jihadists, is it a viable solution to get Mali out of the security crisis that has not ended since 2012? More and more Malians seem to be convinced of this. In two years, points of view have changed significantly on this issue in Mali. Before, this dialogue was impossible to envisage but, under the pressure of the populations and following various forums such as the Conference of national understanding held in 2017, initiate discussions with the main jihadist leaders that are Iyad Ag Ghali and Amadou Koufa has become a strong demand. Until then, however, this wish had not been taken into account.

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Divergence of points of view between Mali and France

But at the beginning of last December, on the 3rd exactly, on the international French television channel France 24, the Malian Prime Minister Moctar Ouane shook the lines. He expressed the wish “to engage in dialogue with all the children of Mali without exclusivity”. Objective: “To be in phase with the will of the Malians and take into account national realities.” “

France, friend, ally and military partner of Mali, had until then shown itself opposed to negotiations with “terrorists” with whom “we do not discuss” and “whom we fight”, to use the words of the President Macron in a recent interview with the weekly Young Africa. A position that the head of French diplomacy, Jean-Yves Le Drian, had defended last October in Bamako, leading to a disagreement with his Malian counterpart. The latter reminded him of the desire for dialogue expressed by the Malians during the consultations of the Inclusive National Dialogue.

Since then, France seems to have changed slightly on the subject, as has the international community. One problem, however: this dialogue desired by the populations to get out of the security crisis that has raged for eight years in the country is far from being initiated. Despite the support of Malian personalities from the world of politics, economics and the arts, the outlines and methods remain unclear.

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Reasons to negotiate advanced …

For Mossadeck Bally, founder and CEO of the Azalaï Hotels Group, dialogue is possible and desirable, provided it takes place between Malians. “There are Malians who have taken up arms against the central power. I am totally in favor of the authorities entering into a dialogue with them to find solutions and to silence the guns, ”he said, before continuing:“ On the other hand, we must absolutely drive out the foreigners who have come to us. We will never have peace as long as they use Mali to carry out their actions against what they call the disbelievers, the Western powers. “

These words resonate positively for Ali Inogo Dolo, mayor of the city of Sangha, a Mecca of Dogon culture in central Mali. He signed a peace pact with the jihadists present in his area. “There are international jihadists, but there are also people who take advantage of the situation and the presence of jihadists to commit their misdeeds. They are Malians. They approached the jihadists to have the means to make their personal fight. With them, we can negotiate, we have done it. But with foreign jihadists, it’s much more complicated, because you have to know who is in command and is therefore responsible. “

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Yehia Ag Mohamed Ali, researcher, former minister and advisor to the prime minister’s office, member of the Convergence for the Development of Mali (Codem), considers for his part that the country is facing an “insurgency” which is based on Islam against bad governance. It is run by Malians themselves. “Today it is Iyad Ag Ghali and Amadou Koufa who have the keys. If they disappear, others, that we do not know and more radical, can take their place, ”he says, before concluding:“ All conflict ends with negotiation. And I believe that we are at a time when it is necessary to negotiate. “

So the time for dialogue would have arrived. That’s what Yacouba Kébé, well-known columnist for the newspaper thinks The torch. “This is the only solution,” he said, “for two reasons. : the first is that we are not militarily ready today to defend all of our territory, which we do not control entirely. Our growing army, as we are used to saying, still has some way to go. The second reason is that we are in a country where speech and dialogue are cultural elements that matter a lot. This is why I think that we have to seriously consider negotiating with Iyad Ag Ghali or with Amadou Kouffa. “And to continue:” If Mali has strong endogenous levers capable of carrying this dialogue and allowing forgiveness, we must seize them. The much-hoped-for dialogue can turn out to be more complex than one might think. The wounds can be all the more profound as the years have passed and as populations and jihadists have become intertwined. “

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“The case of Mali is very specific, because the economic crisis is pushing people from different communities to get involved in jihadism. Sometimes we have the testimony of two brothers, one is a terrorist, the other is in the army, ”says Awa Meité, fashion designer and designer. “At the local level,” she continues, “there are family and community alliances. What to do in this case? In other words, the question today is whether we are ready to negotiate with our own children or to fight them. “

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… even if the rejection front persists

Fighting the jihadists is precisely what the colonel Abass Ag Mohamed Ahmed, former chief of staff of the Coalition for Justice in Azawad, an armed group now disbanded and who has joined the Malian army. “Dialogue with the jihadists is impossible! He maintains. “First, because there is ill will on the part of the terrorists who believe they have the advantage on the ground. And that is a problem, ”he adds. “That said, even if they want to dialogue, I find it inconceivable that a state would accept. We must not forget the damage they caused, the deaths they caused and everything that happened through their fault in this country or in the countries of the Sahel. If you extend your hand to them, it is certain that they will cut it sooner or later, because their doctrine is against the State and the West ”, launches the officer who has lost, because of the terrorists, a number of men. and parents in recent years.

“Mali is today like a seriously ill to whom the doctor announces that he has cancer and who is ready to take any remedy that is offered to him,” said Chogel Kokalla Maïga in the preamble. The president of the Patriotic Movement for Renewal (MPR) considers that the two real questions are: “What should we negotiate? How far can we be prepared to make concessions? “And to explain:” The government has never told the Malians what to negotiate. Should we negotiate the secular and republican form of the state? I think that on this question, the majority of Malians will say “no”. Everyone knows, however, that this is a non-negotiable requirement of terrorist movements. The government must provide answers and solutions on the basis of which we can decide whether or not we are going to dialogue. “

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For Fahad Al Mahmoud, secretary general of the Touareg Imghad and Allies Self-Defense Group (GATIA), Mali has been given the opportunity to launch a vast in-depth debate to find out what the jihadists want, what the Malians want to defend, and until ‘where they’re ready to go. “I think we should reflect on the re-foundation of the state and define the type of state that we want, that we need, that we can defend,” he argues.

Looking at all these elements, it is clear that even if a certain consensus on this issue of dialogue with the jihadists seems to exist between the population and the State, the terms of the framework have not been defined nor the method for achieving it. By way of conclusion, the artist Awa Meïté indicates that “before speaking of dialogue, we must speak of reconciliation”. She continues: “The wounds are deep and the climate must be calmed. We need this reconciliation so that the words are not hollow. We have to be able to forgive ourselves first, but that’s where the problem lies. “

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