“We want to finish this conflict”: Mali is ready to talk peace with jihadis, Ft.com

”This month, Mali’s president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said that his government was ready to hold discussions with two of Mali’s most notorious extremist leaders. “Why not try to contact those who we know are pulling the strings,” he said in an interview with Radio France Internationale on the sidelines of the African Union summit in Ethiopia. “The number of dead in the Sahel is becoming exponential. It’s time for certain avenues to be explored.

His comments are likely to raise concerns among the international community, particularly France, the former colonial power, which still has troops stationed in Mali after its 2013 military intervention against the Islamist insurgency that sprang up in the north of the country.“We want to discuss with all the sons of Mali who [have taken] up arms, but France doesn’t want it,” said Ali Nouhoum Diallo, former president of the National Assembly and a leader of the country’s Fulani community.[…]

Minusma, the UN’s 14,000-troop peacekeeping force in Mali, and the 4,500 French troops who remain in the region have so far been unable to quell violence that has spread into neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso, where the government has lost control of swaths of the country.Last month France said it would send 600 additional troops to the region, but few in Mali expect the meagre extra force to do much to secure the country or region. The effects of climate change, explosive population growth, widespread unemployment and an absent Malian government have created fertile ground for jihadis to stoke grievances. “You have a situation where everyone is on the edge and any little incident can provoke violence from some other part of the conflict,” said Dougoukolo Alpha Oumar Ba-Konaré, a lecturer at the Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales in Paris and founder of the Fulani organisation Kisal. […]

“It’s very complicated. It’s ethnic, it’s tribal . . . it’s so much more than terrorism,” said Lieutenant General Dennis Gyllensporre, the Swedish soldier in charge of Minusma’s peacekeeping mission. “The social contract between the government and citizens is broken, and religious extremists have come into some of these places and provided these services.”Boucar Ali, 46, fled his village last year after one of his children was killed by Dogon people from a neighbouring village. “They burnt our village to the ground,” he said from his new home at a Fulani displaced persons camp outside Bamako, lifting a handful of red-brown dirt. “We knew them, we were together for a long time — our parents and grandparents know each other. We lived together for centuries. I don’t understand it. But there is no government so people do what they want.”He said there must be talks. “I don’t know who is a jihadist, I don’t know who is a hunter — anyone who sees us kills us, so what does it matter?” he said. “The government has failed in all it’s responsibilities — they should do all they can to reconcile the communities so they can go back to their homes.” Citerat ur Financial Times 15 februari