A coalition of armed groups that have signed a landmark peace pact in northern Mali announced on Sunday that they are preparing to defend themselves against the ruling junta, accusing it of breaching mutual security pledges.
In what appeared to be a prelude to battle, the Permanent Strategic Framework for Peace, Security, and Development (CSP) alliance urged people to avoid military facilities.
On Sunday, the governorate of the eastern Gao region announced a 30-day overnight ban between 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., with only security vehicles exempt.
The declaration came following a suicide attack on a military base in northern Mali on Friday, which came a day after suspected jihadists killed 64 people in attacks on an army camp and a passenger boat.
The region, which has been the birthplace of a jihadist insurgency that has engulfed three Sahel countries, has seen a rise of tension in recent weeks, sparked in part by the withdrawal of UN peacekeeping troops from Mali.
The Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), a coalition of Tuareg independence and Arab nationalist groups that is one of the strategic Framework’s parties, announced late Saturday that it had shot down an army plane in the Gao region after it was attacked.
If confirmed, it would be the first time in many years that this has happened.
The army referred to an “incident” without giving further details.
General Alou Boi Diarra, the head of the air force, claimed on state television that an aircraft had “some technical problems” that led the crew to bail out and the jet crashed.
He said that the crew had been recovered safely. He didn’t say anything about the plane’s mission.
In recent weeks, the Framework (CSP) has condemned multiple violations of the 2014 ceasefire and the 2015 peace accord.
It has also criticised the junta’s “current ceasefire strategy,” which it sees as intended to break it, and has warned that it will have to turn to “all measures of legitimate defense” across the northern Azawad region.
The Framework groups are concerned that the removal of UN forces will provide the junta with a “pretext” to reoccupy zones that were surrendered from central control under the 2014 and 2015 agreements.
Following the withdrawal of UN soldiers from their base last month, there were skirmishes between troops and jihadists, as well as between the army and the CMA.
According to the Framework, once the base was left, the army and Russian Wagner paramilitaries, whom it deems terrorists, inflicted brutality on people, including summary murders and abuses like as arbitrary arrest and looting.
The Framework was established in May 2021 by the key northern armed groups who signed the 2015 peace accord, which is now widely regarded as dormant.
The jihadists, who initially fought with Tuareg and Arab insurgents before turning against them, are unaffected by the agreement and have expanded their operations to central Mali and Burkina Faso.
Mali, a landlocked and impoverished country, has been plagued by insecurity since 2012, when a rebellion led by ethnic Tuaregs began in the country’s north.
A peace accord agreed in 2015 between the region’s insurgents and the Malian government finally ended the northern insurrection.
However, the shaky agreement was jeopardized when the civilian government was deposed in 2020 and replaced by a junta.