Briefing 104 / Africa 18 November 2014 Mali: Last Chance in Algiers As the last phase of negotiations resumes on 20 November, the Algeria-led talks between the Malian government and the armed groups in the north should not be rushed as they offer a unique opportunity for a sustainable peace agreement. Share Facebook Twitter Email Save Print Download Full Report Also available in Français Overview Français Overview English I. Overview As northern Mali experiences renewed violence, peace negotiations in Algiers offer a unique opportunity to resolve the crisis. But after almost two months of negotiations, peace remains a distant hope. The Malian government and participating political armed groups have struggled to find common ground. Influential radical groups that are absent from the negotiating table are tempted to resort to violence to derail the process. Conflict resolution will require reconciliation of competing interests regarding security in the Sahara, organisation of the Malian state structure and local balance of power between divided communities in the north. In the face of armed clashes, it is tempting for mediators to move quickly to achieve a deal that would only guarantee security in the short term. But rushing the process will not help. Time is needed to build the foundations of sustainable peace. After months of deadlock, Algeria arranged international mediation that had long been handicapped by institutional rivalries. The mediation team led by Algeria should maintain this momentum and take the time necessary to build broad consensus for a future agreement. The document that serves as a basis for the drafting of a final agreement is a useful first step, but it offers solutions that have shown serious limitations in the past. It presents the crisis as a centre-periphery conflict without acknowledging the divides within northern communities. It does not provide for political and security institutions that would ensure equitable access to resources and responsibilities for all communities. All actors involved in trying to resolve the crisis must learn from the mistakes of previous agreements, such as a lack of funds to ensure quick implementation; weak international guarantee mechanisms that did not fulfil their early warning role; and the neglect of the local balance of power in the north due to the focus on relations between the state and the northern regions. On the security front, the integration of former rebels into the armed forces generated a lot of frustration across the board. During the last few weeks, northern Mali has experienced resurgence in violence, in particular because of jihadi activities and clashes between political armed groups, in violation of the May 2014 ceasefire. In the context of a worrying increase in attacks on the UN Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), it is tempting to strengthen the security response. However, the best option remains to try for a realistic, sustainable agreement. In Bamako, the shock caused by the Kidal debacle in May 2014 has not entirely faded away. Radical nationalist groups have not ruled out the military solution with support from international forces. As the last phase of negotiations opens on 20 November in a climate of distrust, much remains to be done. Any further stalemate in the discussions will give rise to prejudice in both parties. No one wants to rush the signing of an incomplete agreement. Mali’s international partners, who are the future political and financial guarantors of the deal, should not condone a flawed agreement. Failure would also jeopardise Algeria’s laudable efforts to stabilise the region. On the governmental front, the longer public administration remains absent from the north, the more difficult it will be to fully restore the state’s presence. Meanwhile, insecurity in the north is undermining the political and diplomatic influence gained by the Azawad Movements Coalition, due to their victory over the army in Kidal. To all actors involved in the negotiations, in particular their leader, Algeria: take the time necessary to conduct the negotiations and in the meantime, find an interim agreement focusing exclusively on strengthening the ceasefire, for example through increased mixed patrols; address conflict both within the northern communities, and between these communities and the state, in order to establish political and security institutions that ensure a fair and acceptable distribution of resources and political responsibilities; and agree to hold popular consultations prior to finalisation of the agreement, and provide for formal endorsement through a vote by an extraordinary session of the Malian parliament and/or a vote in the regions concerned. To the mediation team (Algeria, MINUSMA, African Union, Economic Community of West African States, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, EU, Mauritania, Niger and Chad): provide international guarantees to ensure funding and implementation of the agreement, including an international mechanism to manage donor funds jointly with the relevant local authorities, and an early warning and rapid reaction system in the event of a derailment of the peace process; and prepare the international mediation team to become a contact group responsible for enforcement of the agreement, based in Bamako and the northern regions, once the negotiations are completed. Dakar/Brussels, 18 November 2014 Related Tags Mali More for you Report / Africa Central Mali: An Uprising in the Making? Also available in Français Briefing / Africa Mali: Peace from Below? Also available in Français Up Next Commentary / Africa What Could Be Behind the Bamako Attack?