Malian government refuses to start talks with jihadists

Days after an announcement to this effect by one of its ministries, the Malian government on Thursday evening denied making it mandatory for anyone to hold talks with some jihadists.

According to a statement posted on the social network, “The government informs national and international public opinion that to date, no national or international organization has been officially mandated to undertake such activity. “

“When the Government of the Republic of Mali deems it appropriate to interact with armed groups of any kind, the Mali people will be notified through the appropriate channels,” he says.

The government claims it has learned “from the press” that the state has started talks with jihadi leaders.

However, the Ministry of Religious Affairs issued a statement last week indicating that it was officially in charge of the dialogue file with certain mandated jihadist groups.

The minister of religious affairs, Mahamadou Kone, was quoted as saying that his services were entrusted with “the mission of good offices towards radical armed groups”.

He himself accused the High Islamic Council of Mali (HCIM) of implementing it “on the ground” during a meeting on 12 October. The HCIM is a structure for dialogue with leaders and officials bringing together religious organizations.

The ministry’s Facebook account posted still photos of the meeting with the HCIM and the minister on Thursday evening “explaining” the “mission of good offices” to the council. The ministry’s chief of staff, Dame Sec, told AFP that “administratively it is now clear that it is our ministry that has the file in hand”.

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The reality of discussions between Malian officials and some jihadist groups has long been in doubt for experts, even since the overthrow of former President Ibrahim Boubakar Keista by the military, in February 2020, the existence of contacts. was recognized. .

But the ministry’s communication was contrary to what officials saw on the subject, even though now in power and the transitional government has established, they say they are in favor of talks with the jihadists.

A dialogue with the jihadists has so far mainly been related to the two jihadist leaders Amadou Kaufa and Iyad Ag Ghali and their groups affiliated with al-Qaeda, not the Islamic State organization.

France, a longtime ally of Mali, has always denied talks.

Relations between Bamako and Paris are going through their most severe crisis since the start of the French engagement in 2013. Mali’s prime minister denounced the French decision to reduce its workforce in the Sahel by 2023 as “abandonment in full flight”.

Paris believes that Bamako’s possible recourse to Wagner, a Russian company of mercenaries, is inconsistent with the French presence.

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