On June 18th, an important step was taken in the resolution of Mali’s 18 month long political and security crises. Since the French assisted the Malian army in removing the terrorist threat of Al-Qaeda and MUJAO in Tombouctou and Gao, one region remained under rebel control. This region in the North East of Mali was Kidal.
Kidal has remained a sore point for many Malians and a dilemma for the international community. Since France gave military assistance in January, Kidal has been occupied by the Malian Tuareg rebel group called the National Movement of Azawad (MNLA). Their demands were for a separate, autonomous region called AZAWAD. Since January, they have installed their own people in administrative positions and not allowed any Malian/international forces in. The Tuaregs are a very small minority in Mali holding less than 10% of the population. For many years they have felt marginalized and felt like they were not treated fairly by the Malian government. France did not want to get involved in Kidal because in essence they would be killing Malians and this could backfire on them. They also prevented the Malian army from entering Kidal because of the potential problems that could come from Malians fighting Malians, but more importantly acts of terror against the people that had aggressed the Malian army just a year ago. While France was initially hailed as a hero for its help in January, most Malians regarded with suspicion and disgust that the French stopped the Malian army from entering Kidal. There was a split between Malians who said they would not vote without one of their regions Kidal being included.
Last week, a tremendous step forward was made, when an agreement was signed between the MNLA and the Malian government in Burkina Faso. While the agreement does not resolve the root issue of the problem, it does allow decisions concerning the stability of the country to be made by a legitimate government rather than an interim government with limited powers. The main issue is that the Tuaregs feel marginalized and uncared for by their central government and so it will be essential for the new government to address this concern.
The next President will have to make it a priority to hold a national dialogue to determine how the issue can be resolved satisfactorily with all parties involved. For a lasting stability and prosperity, the people of Mali ought to be inspired to a stronger commitment to democratic values and standard economic principles. Corruption must be stamped out to allow proper and equitable allocation of the resources and foster foreign direct investment for the creation of decent employment.
The agreement includes acceptance by MNLA that Mali will not be broken up. In addition, the requirement was made that the MNLA withdraw from Kidal and the Malian army and international forces be allowed to take up position within the region. This interim setup will permit the people of Kidal to participate in Malian presidential elections scheduled for July 28. The MNLA had also asked for amnesty for war crimes, but the government did not agree to this and asked that this be reviewed by a joint commission.
While this treaty is not a permanent solution, it does allow the country as a whole to move forward towards elections. It does allow all ethnic groups in Mali to participate in choosing the nation’s next leader. So in no way can groups claim that the elections were not fair due to Kidal not being involved.
Last month, Yeah had called on the government to step down if Kidal is not released before the election. So with this new development of an agreement reached, Yeah congratulated the government on reaching a settlement with the Tuareg group as a means to an end. The bigger goal of elections and a democratic country need to be achieved first before a long lasting solution with the Tuaregs can be established. It is in this tone, that Yeah extended well wishes. Now the country has a month left before the first round of elections on July 28th.
As we prepare here in Mali for July 28th, I send a special thank you to all our friends, family members and well wishers. We are blessed by your support, prayers and thankful for your kind words of encouragement. The dream we have is a Mali filled with opportunity and hope for all Malians. It is a dream that can become a reality with the right leadership. That leader is Yeah Samaké.
Today, I ask you share our story and website (http://www.samake2013.com) via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Email etc. with one friend or family member. Today, I ask you to share the story of hope we have for a Mali filled with opportunity for every Malian. Your voice is your vote for a new day in Mali. Thank you again for sharing this journey with us!