Mali opposition close to joining key peace summit
Bamako – Mali’s opposition on Saturday took tentative steps towards ending its boycott of a political summit enshrined in the country’s 2015 peace deal after the government extended a deadline to facilitate extra talks.
Opposition parties were the last holdout after former rebels who had led several uprisings against the state in Mali’s north ended their own boycott on Tuesday to attend a conference designed to ensure the shaky peace accord remains on course.
The government and pro-Bamako armed groups are also represented at the event.
“It’s a symbolic presence to deliver a message, after a request for our presence by a delegation of participants at the conference,” said Nouhoum Togo, an opposition spokesperson, explaining why some of its delegates appeared Saturday but stopped short of sitting down to discussions.
“It is also because the government has backed off and decided that finally the conference will not end on April 2, but that there will be another phase,” he added.
The new round of talks is expected to begin on Monday.
The head of the opposition grouping, Soumaila Cisse, told delegates after appearing at the talks in Bamako that “inclusive consultations” were required to end Mali’s problems, a remark clearly aimed at the government.
Mali’s north fell under the control of jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda in 2012 who hijacked a rebel uprising, though the Islamists were largely ousted by a French-led military operation in January 2013.
The implementation of the peace accord struck to prevent a similar crisis has been piecemeal and insurgents who refused to sign the deal are still active across large parts of the country.
The current conference aims at solidifying measures agreed by the signatories to reach a lasting peace in the conflict-prone west African nation._ AFP
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