Mali pledges to incorporate 26,000 ex-rebel fighters in army

BAMAKO, Mali — Mali’s government will integrate 26,000 fighters of a past northern rebellion into its army under a deal with leaders of the former independence movement, the two parties announced following a meeting Friday.

The deal points to a new dynamic in the stalled implementation of a reconciliation accord signed years ago.

Friday’s meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga in the presence of several partners of Mali, including the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General and head of the peacekeeping mission in Mali, El Ghassim Wane, and other ambassadors.

“The government of Mali will spare no effort to fulfill these commitments,” Maiga said.

Under the agreement, the reintegration of ex-combatants will occur in two phases, with the second being completed in 2024. A commission will be formed to present proposals to integrate senior military officers from the movement into the army’s chain of command.

The initial peace agreement, signed in 2015 between the government and non-extremist armed independence groups in northern Mali, has remained stalled.

“Things tend to stall and never get done, and this has been the case for years,” said Rida Lyammouri, a senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South. “But if the decisions are carried out, it is a good thing because in the north the population is suffering.”