Mali and Rebels Reach Peace Deal

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DAKAR, Senegal -- Nomadic rebels whose revolt in northern Mali last year split the West African nation in two signed a peace deal Tuesday with the government, resolving a stumbling block to the country's reconstruction.

The rebels of the Tuareg ethnic group had been clinging to swaths of Mali's desert north, refusing to disarm or allow the country's army to enter Kidal, a dusty Sahara outpost near the Algerian border. The peace accord, which calls for the deployment of the Malian army there, follows a French military intervention at the beginning of the year that itself went some way to putting the fractured country back together.

That intervention did not go all the way, however, and the accord signed Tuesday in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, now appears to resolve the last major sticking point. The agreement also helps clear the way for elections in late July. International donors, whose billions of dollars in promised aid is vital to Mali's reconstruction, have been pressuring the government to hold elections.

Before a recent series of military confrontations, Mali had been one of West Africa's most stable nations. In January and February, the French chased out Al Qaeda-allied Islamists, who took over Mali's north last year. But they did not dislodge the Tuaregs, rankling the government and population in Bamako, the capital.

It was the Tuareg uprising in January 2012 -- the latest in a long series of revolts by the Tuaregs dating to the 1960s -- and the subsequent rout of the Malian Army, that paved the way for the Islamist takeover.

For weeks after the French had effectively chased the Islamists out of Mali, the Tuaregs hung on in Kidal, proclaiming their sovereignty. The government sent troops north, announcing its intention to retake Kidal by force, if necessary.

The agreement reached Tuesday will halt that military campaign. A draft circulated last week called for the "progressive deployment of the Malian Army in Kidal." The agreement re-establishes "the sovereignty of Mali on each centimeter of national territory," the Malian government's chief negotiator, Tiébilé Dramé, told French radio Tuesday.

The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said the agreement means that Mali's "security is restored, in essence," and that the way was now clear for elections in July.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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