This was illustrated last week by a criminal attack on an international humanitarian organisation in Gao, leaving one aid worker dead and another severely injured. Violence and insecurity, in a context of broad impunity, affect local populations on a permanent basis and are the main reasons why Malian refugees (estimated total: 141 450) do not return.
In light of the security situation, a new peace forum – due to be held from March 27- April 2, 2017 – will bring together disputing parties and reflect on the challenges that continue to plague the Algerian-brokered peace agreement signed between an alliance of Tuareg-led rebels and the Malian government in June 2015.
But there is a risk that rushing to such a forum will generate misunderstanding and botch the last chance to save the Algiers agreement, according to the National Endowment for Democracy’s Kamissa Camara and Mahamadou Konaté, a Malian professor and political analyst.
“In theory, the National Understanding Conference could well be the foundation for the final settlement of this separatist conflict, as suggested by the Algiers agreement,” they contend. “But for this to happen, the conference must be preceded by a return of trust between the different signatory parties and a constructive dialogue within the Malian political class.”
“A conference of this magnitude deserves more preparation, commitment and awareness,” they note, adding that it should also address the “root causes of the conflict,” notably governance issues that have plagued Mali since independence.