The ex-rebels of northern Mali said on Monday they were "in times of war" with the junta in power in Bamako, in a press release received by AFP and distributed on social networks.
In this press release entitled "communication in times of war" and authenticated by a spokesperson, the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), an alliance of predominantly Tuareg groups which fought the central state before signing an agreement to peace with him in 2015, calls on "all inhabitants of Azawad to go to the field to contribute to the war effort with the aim of defending and protecting the homeland, and thus regaining control of the entire Azawadian national territory" .
Azawad is a name of Tuareg origin for northern Mali, the subject of ancient independence demands . Tensions have continued to grow for months between the CMA and the junta, raising fears of the end of the so-called Algiers peace agreement and the resumption of hostilities initiated in 2012.
Independence and Salafist insurgencies then plunged this poor and landlocked country into a deep security , political and humanitarian crisis from which it has still not emerged.
If the predominantly Tuareg groups accepted a ceasefire in 2014, the jihadists continued the fight against the central state and any foreign presence under the banner of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State organization . The jihadist spread has reached the center of the country, neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.
In the vast desert or semi-desert areas of the north, as well as the regions of Timbuktu and Gao, rivalries have intensified in recent weeks between the multitude of armed actors vying for control of the territory: jihadist groups against the Malian army, groups jihadists among themselves, Tuareg armed groups against jihadists, and Tuareg groups against the Malian army.
They gave rise to a succession of attacks, security incidents and clashes between the army and the CMA.
In its press release which aims to be the first press release from the "Azawadian National Army" , the CMA refrains from talking about a declaration of war, but refers to a "response in self-defense" to what it calls "the aggression" of the Malian army and the Russian paramilitary group Wagner.
The soldiers who seized power by force in 2020 in Mali are widely believed to have secured Wagner's services, despite their denials.
The CMA accuses the army of having bombed its positions but also civilians, and Malian soldiers and Wagner's mercenaries of having committed abuses against the populations. She accuses them of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” . She calls on civilians to stay away from the positions of the “terrorists” of the Malian army and Wagner.
This escalation coincides with a security reconfiguration in the North after the departure of the French anti-jihadist force in 2022 and that, in progress, of the UN mission (MINUSMA), both pushed towards the exit by the junta.
The CMA does not intend for MINUSMA to hand over its camps to the Malian authorities, as it did in August in Ber, near Timbuktu. It believes that under the 2014 and 2015 arrangements, these areas should return to its control.
The junta has made the restoration of sovereignty one of its mantras, an objective that clashes with the various armed groups, which control large areas of territory.