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Mali: Independence Day Festivities Cancelled As Rebels Claim Control of Northern Town

Harare — Tuareg rebels in northern Mali said they have taken over a military camp and checkpoints in the town of Bourem, endangering a 2015 peace agreement.

This follows weeks of fighting with the national army and Wagner mercenaries, according to Al Jazeera.

The Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), a Tuareg rebel alliance, on September 12, captured Bourem, which is located between the historic cities of Gao and Timbuktu. This came after the military consolidated its hold on power in two coups in 2020 and 2021 and expelled French forces as well as the United Nations peacekeeping mission MINUSMA.

The region, which was the birthplace of the armed uprising that has spread throughout the Sahel, is experiencing a rise in tension, partly due to the withdrawal of UN peacekeeping forces that helped to keep the fragile peace.

Now, following a return of hostilities in the north, Mali’s ruling junta cancelled celebrations next week to honour the anniversary of the country’s independence, according to the council of ministers.

The anniversary will be “celebrated in sobriety and in the spirit of national revival”, the council reportedly said after the junta leader Assimi Goita’s decision to call off the celebrations. Goita reportedly ordered the administration to use the money set aside to help the families and survivors of the attacks.

This week armed separatist factions with a Tuareg predominance resumed hostilities in Mali, which saw insurrections in the north throw the country into chaos in 2012. They launched an attack on army positions in the garrison town of Bourem on September 12, which the army is said to have repulsed.

The resurgence of Tuareg separatist military activity coincided with a string of attacks that were mostly attributed to the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), an association of militants with ties to Al-Qaeda. It also occurred at the same time as the current demobilization of the MINUSMA United Nations peacekeeping mission, which the junta is forcing out after ten years of deployment.

Numerous troops died in attacks which the GSIM claimed responsibility for, including those that occurred in the cities of Gao and Bamba on September 8 and 7 respectively. Numerous civilians were killed last week in an attack on a passenger boat on the Niger River that was attributed to terrorists.

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