Mali: What the fusion of the Azawad movements will change

By Manon Laplace

Posted on Tuesday, 14 February 2023 11:50
Alghabass Ag Intalla, leader of the Islamic Movement of Azawad. © AHMED OUOBA/AFP

The three entities united within the Coordination of Movements of Azawad (CMA) announced their merger at the start of the month. With the Goïta Administration mired in controversy relative to the CMA, this is a highly symbolic movement.

It was one of his priorities. When he took over the rotating presidency of the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) in July 2022, Alghabass Ag Intalla immediately reiterated his desire for formal unity.

On Wednesday 8 February, the main representatives of these Tuareg movements met on the sandy ground of the Mano Dayak stadium in Kidal to announce their merger into a single political and military entity, ushering in a new phase of history.

Not yet effective

It must be said that the idea, already discussed in 2012 – the rebellion year in the North – has been around for a long time. Ag Intalla, the head of the High Council for the Unity of Azawad (HCUA), is one of the main defenders.

Although it was officially announced on Wednesday, the merger is not yet effective, with its outlines still to be defined. “A commission must be set up to affirm the practical terms of the merger, as well as the form that the new unified organisation will take,” explains Mohamed Elmalouloud Ramadane, executive of the CMA.

Name changes, structures, and stated objectives are all points that will be debated during an upcoming congress, which should be held as soon as possible. No dates, according to Ramadane, have yet been specified.

The commission set up will also have to decide on the question of the direction of the future movement. The current rotating presidency system within the CMA, which allows the three movements to succeed one another every six months, should thus give way to a fixed presidency, whose term of office is not yet fixed.

Tensions with Bamako

This merger of the CMA movements comes in a context of a sharp deterioration in relations between the armed groups that signed the Peace Agreement and the Goïta Administration. The former rebels have indeed announced that they will suspend their participation in the mechanisms for monitoring and implementing the Algiers agreement last December.

“The more the state neglects or abandons the space for dialogue, the more the implementation of the agreement is endangered, the more the armed movements tend to unify their forces and secure their region,” explained Ferdaous Bouhlel, researcher and specialist in mediation and conflict management issues, to Jeune Afrique last July.

At a time when international mediation, led by Algeria, is trying to bring the protagonists back to the negotiating table, this announcement sounds like a new signal to the authorities in Bamako.

“Above all, this is a message that we are sending to the public, which has sought this merger for a long time. But everyone can see what they want,” tempers Ramadane. “A meeting is always a reinforcement,” he concedes, however. “It is a reminder that we are a key player, which is consolidating.”

Future political movement?

In 2019, Ag Intalla pleaded for the creation of a political movement “capable of taking charge of the concerns of the populations of Azawad within the framework of national construction”.

If it is mentioned in the declaration signed this Wednesday by CMA officials, the prospect of a political movement “is not on the agenda,” stated Ramadane.

“The idea still exists, but first the process of disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) must be completed. There cannot be a political party with armed men,” he defends.

It is a way of reminding the Malian government of one of the provisions of the agreement it signed, which provides for the integration of former Tuareg combatants into the regular army.

Whatever the name of their new group, CMA officials have assured that “the doors will be open to signatory or non-signatory groups, such as civil society organisations.”

The desire of the former rebels was to expand their ranks and form a common front, at a time when the dialogue with Bamako seems broken, reviving the spectre of separatist sentiment in the North.

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