The press release, read on the evening of January 25 on Malian national television, resonates like the official death certificate of an agreement which no longer existed except on paper. The military power in place in Bamako announced the “end, with immediate effect” of the Algiers peace agreement, signed in 2015 between the Malian state and the Tuareg and Arab independence rebel groups in the north of the country, under the under the auspices of Algeria. In front of the viewers, Lieutenant-Colonel Abdoulaye Maïga, Minister of Territorial Administration, justified this decision by “the change in posture of certain groups signatories to the agreement (…) who have become terrorist actors”, as well as by “the acts of hostility and exploitation of the agreement” to which Algiers, according to him, engaged.

On Friday, the Algerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs contested these explanations which “absolutely do not correspond in any way to the truth or reality.” “It has escaped no one’s notice that the transitional authorities had been preparing this decision for a long time,” underlined Algerian diplomacy, while expressing its “deep concern” about this decision by Bamako, of “particular seriousness for the Mali itself and for the entire region”.

The former rebels in the North are not surprised either. “Since the junta came to power [following the May 2021 coup], it is clear that the colonels had no intention of maintaining the Algiers agreement. All the ingredients for a breakup were there. Now it’s over. We will continue the war,” declares Mohamed Elmaouloud Ramadane, the spokesperson for the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), which brings together most of the politico-military groups in conflict with the central power.

By definitively burying this text supposed to give more autonomy to the northern regions and maintain a ceasefire between the State and the armed groups who declared war on it in 2012 with the temporary help of jihadists established in this part of the country, the junta formalizes a rupture already recorded on the ground for several months. After eight years of a fragile ceasefire that the Algerian mediator tried as best he could to maintain, the junta broke it in August 2023 by attacking CMA positions in the North.

An ultra-sovereignist line

Three months of armed clashes followed, in particular to regain control of the bases abandoned by the United Nations Mission in Mali (Minusma), asked to leave the territory by the authorities. On November 14, the capture of Kidal by the Malian army and its Russian ally from the private security group Wagner forced the CMA to flee its bastion, a historic stronghold of the Tuareg rebellions, to retreat towards the Algerian border.

In an attempt to bring the two parties back to the negotiating table, the northern neighbor, historically influential in northern Mali, received several executives from the rebel movements in Algiers in mid-December 2023. The reception, on January 18, by the President Abdelmadjid Tebboune of Imam Mahmoud Dicko, one of the last critical voices in Bamako, has finished provoking the latter’s anger. The ambassadors of the two countries were then recalled by their respective authorities.

If Algiers played appeasement at the beginning of January by sending its ambassador back to Mali, Bamako remained stuck to its positions. Two weeks later, during the non-aligned summit held from January 15 to 20 in Kampala, capital of Uganda, the head of Malian diplomacy launched a new salvo by criticizing the interference of Algiers in the internal affairs of his country. According to Abdoulaye Diop, Algeria would have tried, without Mali’s opinion, to add to the final declaration of the summit “a complete chapter” with “language in relation to the peace agreement which does not reflect reality of today.” In other words, Algiers would have tried to reaffirm the importance of this text which the junta no longer wants.

While the Algerian authorities denied having taken such an initiative, the regime chaired by Colonel Assimi Goïta, who has defended an ultra-sovereignist line since coming to power, continued to increase tension. Thursday, in his press release, Colonel Abdoulaye Maïga accused Algiers of having increased “unfriendly acts”, “hostility and interference in the internal affairs of Mali” in recent months.

According to a Western diplomatic source in Bamako, this distrust of the junta against the Algerian mediator has occurred “since the rebel movements were received by the Algerian authorities. They can move freely in the south of Algeria and the Malian regime suspects Algiers of having created the conditions allowing these armed groups to organize consultations, find financing and fighters, in order to organize the response against the ‘Malian army’.

After pushing French soldiers towards the exit door at the end of 2022, then Minusma a year later, the transitional authorities “attacked the latest avatar embodying the weight of the international community in Mali, namely the peace agreement of Algiers”, continues the same source. Because behind Algeria, France, the United States and the European Union supported this agreement, never really accepted or implemented by Bamako.

“No one has a better solution in Mali than the Malians,” warned Minister Abdoulaye Diop in Kampala. Nine years earlier, already in the same position, he saw in the agreement he had just negotiated in Algiers a condition for peace. It is now up to the “inter-Malian dialogue”, announced at the end of December by Colonel Goïta, to outline the contours of the future of relations between the north and the south of Mali in order to avoid a new split as in 2012.