By Oumar Dembele
“The government should openly announce the end of the presence of the Barkhane Force and Minusma on our territory. Then, we will respond to any calls for negotiations with the state for the good of the country and the people,” writes the main Malian jihadist group, referring to the two main foreign forces present in Mali: namely military operation by the French and the UN military mission.
In a statement published on Sunday March 8 on its electronic platform al-Zallaqa, the Support Group of Islam and Muslims (GSIM) also known in Arabic as Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimeen), opines that “it is impossible” to speak of negotiations as long as this occupation continues.”
The group led by former the Malian Tuareg rebel leader-cum jihadist, Iyad Ag-Ghali, 62, demands that “French forces and their collaborators leave Mali, stop their aggression and their plain and secret interference in our affairs, because we do not intervene in theirs.”
For the companions of this native of the Boghassa region (more than 1,000 km northeast of Bamako), if this condition is met, the Malian people will discover that they are “the most concerned about stability, security, progress and improvement of living conditions, such as health, education, housing and work.”
In its letter authenticated by the American Center for Monitoring Jihadist Sites (SITE), the GSIM insists that “if the government of Bamako really wants to serve the interests of its people, it should make frank demands of France as expressed by the population. Let the state announce that it will stand by its people, whose legitimate desire is to be freed from this occupation.”
The jihadists justify their position by the desire to live “as free and dignified men on (their) land as do the other peoples in the world.”
The GISM’s press release comes a few weeks after the declaration made on February 10 by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (IBK) calling for dialogue with the jihadist leaders controlling much of Mali.
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A few days before IBK’s declaration, made on the sidelines of the 33rd African Union (AU) summit in Ethiopia, his main representative for the central region, Dioncounda Traore, explained that he had sent envoys to contact the jihadist groups.
To date, Bamako has not followed up on the conditions set by Iyad Ag-Ghali.
But in the recent past, President Keita had declared that “those who demand the departure of foreign forces are enemies of Mali.”