In the Sahel, the cards are reshuffled. Between the G5 Sahel summit which brought its share of novelties, the growing involvement of Russia, the United States and France, Mali must deal with terrorists who consolidate their hold over the south and the center of the country .
Should we discuss with the terrorists? The question is angry in many countries, and particularly in Mali. At the end of 2019, if, officially, Bamako refused to negotiate with the jihadists, in the center of the country, attempts at mediation with radical groups had been initiated. As in Niger and Burkina Faso, the debate is in any case relaunched. THEhe Malian government has just put forward an idea: to dialogue with terrorist groups in the “Three Borders” area, in southern Mali. Why this choice ? Especially since these are not the only terrorist groups present in the country.
A difficult choice ?
In 2012, President Amadou Toumani Touré was overthrown, the people and the army judging in particular that he had been unable to stop the influx of terrorists in the north and south of Mali. The rest, we know it… Since then, Mali has gone from bad to worse, the war against terrorism is far from being won and the Western armed presence has only made matters worse.
Although France, whose army remains the most engaged in the war against terrorism in Mali, has repeated its hawkish commitment, the "reinforced and decisive" action promised by President Emmanuel Macron from his Paris office during the summit. of the G5 Sahel of N'Djamena on February 16, advancing at an ant's pace.
Chad has promised to deploy 1 additional troops in the area. And Mali, in question, has recruited more than 2 troops in two years. Mali's army even promised to double its strength in the next five years, bringing the potential number of troops to 000. However, without French funding, this promise takes time to materialize.
It is in this context that, on February 19, Malian Prime Minister Moctar Ouane assured the National Assembly of his country that "more and more voices in Mali are calling for dialogue with our brothers who have joined groups. radicals ”.
What does the international community think?
If the words of Moctar Ouane were greeted with enthusiasm at the national level, this is far from being the case with regard to Mali's partners in the fight against terrorism. The member of the National Transitional Council (CNT) Abdoul Magid Nasser also asked the question: “The Malians say that we must negotiate with radical groups, but does the international community agree? "
In any case, the reality on the ground prompts the Malian authorities to ask this thorny question. With the exception of Niamey, the attacks of the Islamic State in the Great Sahara (EIGS) are numerous and incessant throughout the region, more particularly in Tillabéry, Gaya and Ansongo. In other words, government strongholds are surrounded by war zones controlled by terrorist groups.
The EIGS and the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM) affiliated with al-Qaeda had attacked Malian soldiers and civilians as much as they clashed with each other.
Of course, the real danger in Mali remains the Islamic State in the Great Sahara. Especially since the Bamako agreement in 2016, according to which AQIM nationals from southern Algeria would no longer attack Mali.
Terrorists in favor of a dialogue with the state
However, the GSIM acts independently of the orders of Al Annabi, head of AQIM, especially since the commitment to the Malian government was concluded by his predecessors. Iyad Ag Ghali, head of GSIM, is close to the Fulani population, stigmatized in Mali. Between June 2020 and February 2021, the GSIM claimed 37 victims in the ranks of the Malian army and many more civilians.
The GSIM, for its part, expressed a willingness to negotiate with the Malian authorities to end the conflict, with the withdrawal of French forces as a condition. Malian indecision and the internal conflict of terrorist groups suggest that Mali is more concerned about the situation in the south of the country than about the moods of Ag Ghali, the head of the GSIM.
During the night of February 26 alone, Ag Ghali's group killed nine Malian soldiers. The assault took place in Bandiagara while the Malian Minister of Reconciliation, Ismael Wagué, was on tour in the region.
The attack was claimed very quickly by the GSIM, contrary to its usual practice. The message is clear: if the Malian government does not find an agreement with the GSIM, no peace will be signed between the government and the EIGS.
These recent movements of the GSIM herald the start of a new wave of hostilities against the Malian government and the EIGS, if a state-terrorist dialogue does not begin.