Barely hours after the Tuareg-led armed rebel groups said they would approve a preliminary peace deal with the government to end violence in northern Mali, fresh clashes in the region led to the deaths of at least four people on Wednesday. The renewed violence erupted between members of the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) -- a coalition of five rebel groups -- and pro-government militias near the village of Ikadewan, according to media reports.
Mossa Ag Attaher, a leader of the CMA, told the Associated Press (AP) that unless members of the pro-government militias relinquish control over the northern town of Menaka, which was seized from the Tuareg rebels late last month, the violence would continue.
“If the militia does not leave Menaka through dialogue, we are going to use all means necessary to make them leave because this belongs to us and is recognized by the ceasefire accords and the international community,” Ag Attaher reportedly said.
The West African nation has been gripped with a violent civil war since 2012, when former president Amadou Toumani Toure was ousted in a coup. Following his ouster, government forces were driven out of towns and cities in northern Mali, which was later declared as an “Independent State of Azawad” by a group of separatists and Islamist militants.
Although efforts by the United Nations and Algerian mediators ensured that a ceasefire between the Malian government, which has rejected demands for autonomy, and the rebels, was signed in 2013, and again in February 2015, sporadic clashes have continued unabated in the country.
Peace negotiations have also stalled despite calls by the international mediators to unite forces against militant Islamist groups aligned with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which wants to impose sharia law in the regions captured by the rebel groups. The CMA has reportedly said that it will not accept any deal that does not recognize “Azawad” -- the name used by Tuaregs for the northern part of Mali -- as a “geographic, political and juridical entity.”