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Troubles in Tuareg heartland of Kidal jeopardise Mali peace


A few stale and mouldy loaves are all that are left in the main bakery of Mali’s northern desert town of Kidal.

The owners abandoned it when the prices of flour doubled after armed fighters from a mostly Tuareg group blocked the town, which sits at a critical smuggling crossroad, last month.

The blockade is part of a bitter feud between rival Tuareg clans which is undermining attempts to implement a 2015 peace deal and stabilise northern Mali and the Sahel.

The absence of a legitimate army in the north has left a gap allowing bands of Islamist militants, who were scattered but not defeated by a 2013 French military operation, to become increasingly brazen.

Addressing the grievances of secular Tuareg armed groups, comprising of thousands of fighters, is seen as an essential step towards countering roaming jihadists, who are tied to them both in kinship and business, and have always exploited their grievances.

“There’s no chance of taking the fight to Islamic terrorists if the Tuareg conflict is not resolved first. We’ve seen the limits of foreign intervention and Tuaregs need to be part of the security solution.” said Sean Smith, West Africa Political Risk Analyst at Verisk Maplecroft.

Clashes between fighters from the two heavily armed sides , the pro-government Platform coalition, led by the GATIA militia and the separatist Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) have broken out repeatedly since July, killing 39, the United Nations said.

“The first violations of the ceasefire in Kidal have endangered the peace process, pushing back the appointment of interim administrations and the launch of mixed security patrols,” U.N. peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous said this month, referring to patrols meant to incorporate Tuaregs as well as the Malian army.

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