30 December 2017

Mali: Goverment Resigns in Surprise Move

Mali's prime minister and government have resigned without providing a reason. The country is months from a presidential election that will take place against the backdrop of a fragile peace agreement and instability.

Mali's Prime Minister Abdoulaye Idrissa Maiga and his government resigned on Friday, the president's office said.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (pictured above) accepted the resignation and thanked Maiga, who has been prime minister since April.

No explanation was given for the resignation. The surprise move comes only seven months before Keita seeks re-election.

Maiga was Keita's campaign director during the 2013 presidential campaign.

Keita's office said a new prime minister and government would be named soon. It will be the fifth government to serve since Keita came to power in 2013.

Mali descended into a spiral of instability in 2012, when ethnic Tuareg rebels and other groups took advantage of a power vacuum left by a military coup in the capital, Bamako, to take over northern Mali in a bid for independence.

But the rebellion for Tuareg autonomy was quickly hijacked by Islamist militants, including al Qaeda-aligned groups.

Events in Mali prompted France to militarily intervene in its former colony in January 2013.

French forces were able to largely push back the extremist insurgency, but jihadis continue to use sparse terrain to launch attacks. Their insurgency has since spread into Burkina Faso and Niger.

The UN deployed the peacekeeping MINUSMA mission in July 2013 to replace the French mission.

It now oversees a June 2015 peace accord signed between the Malian government and Tuareg rebels and other northern rebel factions, but excludes al-Qaida linked groups. Implementation of the peace agreement is fragile.

Separately, Chad, Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso - known as the G5 - are setting up a 5,000-strong combined Sahel force to combat smuggling and extremist groups.

The EU is the main financial supporter of this French-backed African force.

The G5 force is expected to complement France's Barkhane force of 4,000 troops active in the Sahel region and the MINUSMA mission.

Germany has about 1,000 troops deployed in Mali as part of the UN peacekeeping mission.

cw/msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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