Offbeat In Ménaka, in northern Mali, the guns have started to fall silent

12:50  01 december  2020
12:50  01 december  2020 Source:   01net.com

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The following is a timeline of major events during the Northern Mali conflict. 16 January - 17 January: Battle of Menaka between the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the army of Mali . On the 17th, fighting spread to towns of Aguelhok and Tessalit.

Regional inequalities led to rebellions in northern Mali . Bamako answered mostly through military means and by Foreign interference and the central position of northern Mali in the regional race for Sahelian Abuses, especially from the Malian military in the regions of Gao, Kidal and Menaka

Des miliciens de groupes armés en patrouille autour de Ménaka, dans le nord du Mali, le 21 novembre 2020 © SOULEYMANE AG ANARA Militiamen of armed groups on patrol around Ménaka, in northern Mali, on November 21, 2020

Lost in the desert in northeastern Mali, the town of Ménaka, in the heart of a region plagued by insecurity, has been experiencing "relative peace" for several weeks thanks to the "Menaka without arms" operation, the result of still fragile cooperation between Malian and foreign soldiers and various long rival armed movements.

Des miliciens du Gatia et du MSA devant leur quartier général à Ménaka, le 21 novembre 2020 © SOULEYMANE AG ANARA Gatia and MSA militiamen in front of their headquarters in Ménaka, November 21, 2020

Near the Niger border, 1,500 km from Bamako, Ménaka fell in 2012, along with the rest of northern Mali , under the thumb of a coalition formed by the predominantly Tuareg rebellion and Islamist movements, the beginning of a spiral of violence in which the immense Sahelian country is still plunged.

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Three military bases housing foreign forces in northern Mali have come under separate attacks within the space of a few hours, according to officials. The camps in Kidal, Menaka and Gao were hit by “indirect fire” on Monday morning, said Thomas Romiguier, a spokesman for French forces who have

The Fall of Timbuktu took place during the war in northern Mali . This is one of the first clashes between the MNLA and Ansar Dine. On June 13, 2012, at approximately 10:00 am, an MNLA vehicle arrived at a station at the south-eastern entrance of Timbuktu City, on the Goundam Road.

Vue aérienne du centre de Ménaka, le 22 novembre 2020 © SOULEYMANE AG ANARA Aerial view of the center of Ménaka, November 22, 2020

The Islamists quickly ousted the rebels and established Sharia law (Islamic law) in the conquered cities, before being driven out by an international military operation initiated by France in 2013.

Signatories of a peace agreement in 2015 with the government, ex-independence rebels and pro-Bamako armed groups have since fought over control of Ménaka, which has changed hands on several occasions.

Despite the peace agreement, until recently, there was an "atmosphere worthy of + settling of scores at OK Corral +" between these groups in and around Ménaka, underlines a diplomat stationed in Bamako.

Trafficking of all kinds, shootings and burglaries punctuated the life of some 20,000 inhabitants (2009 census) of the city. The region remains a stronghold of jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State organization.

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An engineering detachment from the French Armed Forces recently completed work on an unusual star-shaped camp at Labbézanga in northern Mali . It’s not the first of the country’s military construction projects in Africa that owe more to the era of the European renaissance period than the 21st-century.

Starting from 1949 (the year in which he was born), he chronicled the major events that occurred during that time in a rapid fire delivery of names, places, and cultural works. These are his words on the subject: I started doing that as a mental exercise.

Un marché de Ménaka, le 22 novembre 2020 © SOULEYMANE AG ANARA A market in Ménaka, November 22, 2020

- "We were not sleeping" -

Since the launch in September of the operation "Menaka without weapons", a "relative peace" has nevertheless settled in Ménaka, believes a representative of local civil society, Alhousseni Aghaly.

"Before, people did not sleep, did not know what to expect or what saint to turn to. Now, we manage to sleep, even if the fear persists", he confided to a correspondent of AFP.

Carte du Mali localisant la région de Ménaka © AFP Map of Mali locating the Menaka region

This operation, launched shortly after the military coup that overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta in mid-August, brings together all the forces present in an unprecedented way, with the exception of jihadist groups, to secure the city and its surroundings.

Benefiting from the support of the French anti-jihadist force Barkhane and the United Nations Mission (Minusma), it represents the application of an essential part of the 2015 peace agreements, never really implemented.

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His knees gave,12 and he fell on the ground. Nothing happened, and there was no sound. Trembling he looked up in time to see a tall dark figure like a There was a loud rumbling sound, as of stones rolling and falling , and suddenly light streamed in. A low door-like opening appeared at the end of the

This time, a balance seems to have been found.

The Malian army and UN peacekeepers are patrolling the city. As for the fighters of the Movement for the Salvation of Azawad (MSA), of the "Gatia", another pro-government group, and other elements of ex-rebel signatory groups, they hold a dozen checkpoints around Menaka.

Miliciens du Gatia et du MSA en aptrouille à Ménaka, le 21 novembre 2020 © SOULEYMANE AG ANARA Gatia and MSA militiamen on the move in Ménaka, November 21, 2020

"We put a belt all around Ménaka so that everything that comes in or goes out can be controlled", explains Moussa Ag Acharatoumane, the leader of the MSA.

- "Convergent interests" -

However, Ménaka is still far from being "unarmed".

On their pick-ups or perched by the dozen on the roof of a building on the edge of the city, the MSA fighters, turban on their heads, just like the members of the Gatia, display their machine guns and rocket launchers .

Likewise, one should not take too much account of the motorcycles which bypass the checkpoints set up by the operation, nor the trenches announced by the Minusma which have not (yet) seen the light of day.

For the mayor of Ménaka, Nanoute Koteya, in a tense climate, the most important thing is this beginning of an understanding between the ex-rebels and the pro-government, and their cohabitation with the Malian Armed Forces.

"What was missing starts to happen", he rejoices.

"We'll have to see what happens in the long term", qualifies a local notable.

This apparent cohesion is largely due to a "convergence of interests", adds the diplomat stationed in Bamako.

By showing itself to its advantage in Ménaka, the Malian army gains legitimacy in a region where it has especially experienced severe humiliations.

The leaders of the MSA and Gatia hope, for their part, to assert their weight with the transitional authorities in place in Bamako and to strengthen themselves on the local political scene, underlines Adam Sandor, researcher at the Canadian research organization Center FrancoPaix .

saa-ah / siu / jhd

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