Mali: the shadow of terrorists Amadou Kouffa and Iyad AG Ghaly on the National Peace Conference

In Bamako, works on the first week of the National Peace Conference ended on Sunday April 2nd. Among the subjects mentioned, a possible negotiation with the Malian terrorist leaders to restore security in the north and the center of Mali.

The government has always been hostile to this idea. But it has been discussed enough by the National Peace Conference to pass over in silence. Negotiating with radical preacher Amadou Kouffa and his leader Iyad Ag Ghaly, two Malian terrorists, is one of the resolutions of the national peace conference held from March 27 to April 2 in Bamako.

Widely evoked during the debates, negotiating with Malian terrorists is presented as an alternative to the State’s inability to cope with the worsening security situation.

Between January 2015 and September 2016, there were at least 52 attacks and hundreds of deaths in central Mali where the Ançardine branch led by Amadou Kouffa remains very active, according to a study by the Macina Institute. According to << Emergence of Malian jihadists >>, a recent study by the Dakar-based Institute for Security Studies (ISS), at least 310 attacks recorded in Mali and neighboring countries (Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Niger during 2016 and the first quarter of 2017).

On the other hand, the insufficient efforts of the army and its international partners are increasingly pushing Malian public opinion to favor dialogue. Already in 2015, Mahamoud Dicko, president of the Islamic High Council of Mali alluded to it. In November 2016, he even claimed to have received a letter from Iyad where the chief terrorist claimed to be open to dialogue with the authorities.

Then it was the turn of Tiébilé Dramé of the political opposition, several religious leaders and recently of the former prime minister Mohamed Ag Hamani, today at the head of a coordination of associations of the civil society, to indicate “not seeing any disadvantage of negotiating with Malian terrorists.” Oumar Mariko, a Malian deputy known for his outbursts, even conditions the return of a peace in Mali to negotiations with Iyad.

The ISS study published on April 3, 2017 also indicates that delays in the implementation of the peace and reconciliation agreement raise the issue of << the inclusion of Malian jihadists >> in the political process. But how to deal with these two terrorist leaders who plan to apply an extremist Sharia while preserving the secular character of the State?

“Precedents in the region can and should inspire us,” said Adam Thiam, a Malian journalist and author of << Center of Mali: Challenges and Dangers of a Neglected Crisis >>. These include the civil concord in Algeria, which proposed an amnesty to << all those who would lay down their weapons >> and the Ulema process in Mauritania.

Officially, the government does not seem to want to explore this track.  << From my point of view, there have undoubtedly been secret attempts >>, Adam Thiam explains. << Iyad is a jihadist leader and I do not know of any of them who repented. I do not see how he can be brought into the process unless a not secret amnesty is passed with Iyad to stop recruiting and the jihadist activities >>, adds Thiam. But at this moment he would be alienating his Aqim allies.

The track Amadou Kouffa remains dependent on that of Iyad AG Ghaly who is his mentor. It will also be difficult to bring him back into the process “without doctrinal concessions,” several observers agree.

The National Peace Conference is a provision of the Peace and Reconciliation Ain Mali signed in May and June 2015 between the government and armed groups in the north of the country. The purpose of the MOU is to allow for an in-depth debate among all components of the Malian Nation on the root causes of the conflict in northern Mali.

Aboubacar Dicko