Representatives of the Tuareg rebels and the government of Mali dissolved their negotiations in Algiers without reaching a settlement. Meanwhile, the violence continues.
For an entire week, representatives of the Malian government and Tuareg rebels sat and talked. It was the third round of negotiations within four months. However, after a few days, the Malian government and the rebels were not been able to reach an agreement.
"The subject of a federal state is not on our schedule," said Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop, who took part in the negotiations in Algeria's capital, Algiers. He also accused the rebels of radicalization saying that they called for a high degree of autonomy for northern Mali.
"It is important that the negotiations return to what we have offered," Diop added. "We are willing to make governmental reforms so that the self-administration of local communities will be strengthened. But it must be done within the framework of a unitary state."
On Thursday (27.11.2014) news came that the negotiations had ended. "We can not agree," said Moussa Ag Assarid, spokesman for the Tuareg movement. "The positions are very far apart." The Malian Minister for reconciliation, Ould Sidy Zahabi, was not surprised and said, "I predicted that this round (of negotiations) would end this way."
Autonomy and decentralization
Tuareg rebels and Islamists seized control of the northern part of the West African country after a military coup in March 2012. The Islamists then ousted the Tuareg rebels and penetrated further and further to the south. It was only a French military intervention in January 2013 that stopped their advance.
Negotiations ensued in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou. The results of those negotiations included the creation of an inter-Malian dialogue after the presidential election. The elections in September 2013 saw Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta become Mali's head of state. However, little has happened since then, and the truce did not last long. After a new Tuareg offensive in May, Prime Minister Moussa Mara said that Mali was once again at war.
The Tuareg are demanding a high degree of autonomy in the northern part of the country, an area they call Azawad. They have given up on the idea of an independent state, says Georg Klute, professor of anthropology at the University of Bayreuth. "I think they understand that the United Nations, the African Union and the European Union would not approve of such a situation. The international community is still annoyed with what happened in South Sudan. The plan to create a new country did not, as hoped, solve the problem but, instead created a new problem."
However a federal system, similar to the Federal Republic of Germany, which would grant sovereign rights to the individual states, is out of the question for Mali's government. At best they could discuss increased decentralization.
"Progress in identifying the problems"
Now it was up to both sides to submit a new proposal said Klute. A new round of negotiations is scheduled for January 2015. The mediators, which include Algeria, the United Nations Mission for Mali (MINUSMA) and the African Union, remain optimistic despite minimal success." The mediators have noted with satisfaction that significant progress has been made in identifying the problems that need to be tackled."
Meanwhile, the violence in northern Mali continues. The area is sparsely populated, large parts are beyond the control of the government and it is a haven for arms and drug smugglers. On Tuesday (25.11.2014) two Malian soldiers were killed when the convoy of a minister drove over a mine. On Saturday (22.11.2014) suspected Islamists kidnapped ten children.