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Mali's government agrees to sign 26,000 ex-northern rebels into its army

Malian soldiers in Bamako (2020)   -  
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Mali's government has said it will integrate 26,000 ex-fighters from a northern rebellion group into its army as part of a deal with the former independence movement.

The agreement was struck in a meeting on Friday between the two parties and suggest a new energy in the stalled reconciliation deal, signed several years ago.

The meeting was chaired by Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga.

Also attending the event were the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General and head of the peacekeeping mission in Mali, El Ghassim Wane, and other ambassadors.

A peace deal between the government and non-extremist armed independence groups in the north was signed in February 2015 but has stalled in the past seven years.

Following the ceasefire in 2015 between the Malian government and the northern rebels, both sides have pledged to "tackle the causes of lasting tensions in the region." 

Since then Mali's leaders have rejected calls for an autonomous region in the north but say they are prepared to consider devolved local powers.  

Mali has been struggling to contain an extremist insurgency for a decade and rebels were eventually forced from power in the north with the help of a French-led military operation.

But some rebel groups have reformed in the desert - staging attacks on the country's army and U.N. peacekeepers.

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