In northern Mali, the “reconstituted” army pushed to leave its Kidal camp

A battalion which was supposed to materialize the reconciliation – now over – between armed actors in northern Mali was forced to leave its camp on Tuesday October 10 in Kidal, a possible scene of a military confrontation in the coming weeks

In northern Mali, the “reconstituted” army pushed to leave its Kidal camp

A battalion which was supposed to materialize the reconciliation – now over – between armed actors in northern Mali was forced to leave its camp on Tuesday October 10 in Kidal, a possible scene of a military confrontation in the coming weeks. His departure was reported by the Malian army, by the rebellion which has just taken up arms and by the UN mission, Minusma.

This battalion of the so-called “reconstituted” army integrates elements of the forces that fought each other after the start of the insurgency in 2012 and until a peace agreement in 2015: soldiers of the army, fighters of the separatist rebellion dominated by Tuareg, men from pro-government armed groups. This battalion embodied the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) effort of former combatants, one of the important chapters of the peace agreement.

The arrival of a few hundred members of the reconstituted battalion in Kidal in February 2020, after years of absence from the army, was hailed as a significant step forward on the path to peace in a country which remains prey to conflict. jihadism and a deep multidimensional crisis. In fact, Kidal, bastion of the separatist rebellion, remained under the control of the latter despite the presence of a camp of the reconstituted army and another of the UN.

The separatists have just resumed hostilities against the army and the 2015 agreement is moribund. A possible army operation is looming in Kidal.

A major sovereignty issue

The UN mission, pushed out by the junta in power in Bamako, must liberate its camp in Kidal in the coming weeks. The handover of this camp could give rise to fighting between the rebellion and the army for control of the area. A large army convoy set off last week towards Kidal, with a view to the evacuation of the local UN camp and, further north, those of Tessalit and Aguelhok. The rebellion engaged in attacks on the column, which advanced to approximately 110 km south of Kidal.

The rebellion indicated in a press release that it had supervised “the voluntary withdrawal” of the reconstituted battalion, which took place “in the best conditions, in close collaboration with Minusma”. The elements of the battalion were welcomed at the Minusma camp. The army indicated on social networks that it was its components and those of pro-government groups who left their camp.

Minusma indicated in a press release that in accordance with its current withdrawal, it had withdrawn its blue helmets from their advanced posts in Kidal to regroup them in the mission camp. These blue helmets supported the reconstituted battalion. “In consultation with the various stakeholders and for strictly humanitarian reasons, Minusma agreed to welcome 111 elements” of the battalion to its Kidal camp, she said. Minusma, which is supposed to have left Mali by December 31, said it was determined “to do everything possible to achieve the withdrawal within the planned deadline […] despite very difficult security, logistical and other circumstances.” .

Kidal is a major sovereignty issue and its insubordination an old source of irritation in Bamako, including for the junta which took power by force in 2020. The colonels have made the restoration of state control over the entire territory one of their mantras.