August 3, 2021

In Mali, a dialogue with the jihadists under pressure

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“No dialogue and compromise” with the jihadists. This June 10, on the sidelines of the NATO summit, Emmanuel Macron announces “The end of the operation Barkhane », launched in Mali in 2014, adding: “We cannot suffer from ambiguity” and conduct operations “With powers which decide to discuss with groups which, besides that, shoot our children”. The firmness of the Head of State reflects a concern: while Bamako has just experienced its second coup in nine months, what positions will the new authorities take on the thorny issue of negotiations with the jihadists?

The subject is not only of circumstances. For years, he has opposed Bamako and Paris. On the Malian side, while the conflict with the jihadists has, since 2012, largely extended to the center and now descends towards the south of the country, public opinion increasingly thinks that the war cannot be won by arms. But in Paris, the idea of ​​negotiating with groups labeled Al-Qaida while French soldiers are being killed in combat (50 dead since 2013) is difficult to justify.

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As early as 2017, France tried to rule out this option. At the time, when the Malian army was cornered in the north and the center, Prime Minister Abdoulaye Idrissa Maïga decided to launch a dialogue with the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), affiliated with Al- Qaida. A mission of good offices was entrusted to Imam Mahmoud Dicko, who then chaired the High Islamic Council (HCI), a group of religious leaders, and was responsible for establishing contact with the combatants led by Iyad Ag Ghali. But ” pressure was allegedly exerted by French diplomatic representatives ”, notes researcher Ferdaous Bouhlel in her report, “(Not) dialogue with“ jihadist ”groups in Mali? », Published by the Berghof Foundation in 2020. According to the author, the disagreement between Paris and Bamako on this subject would have even precipitated the replacement of the Prime Minister by Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga, “Considered more in line with French requirements on the issue. “

Floor on a political solution

Two years later, the option resurfaced. In December 2019, the Malian state launched an “inclusive national dialogue” the objective of which is to explore the various possible ways out of the crisis. One of his recommendations is to discuss “ with Iyad Ag Ghali and Amadou Koufa [un autre chef du GSIM] ». President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK) then instructs Dioncounda Traoré, the former transitional president who signed the French military intervention request in 2013, to work on a political solution. The man knows the file well: at the time, agreements – cyclical – with the jihadists had been concluded in order to be able to organize the presidential election in certain localities in the north.

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