Bamako-Tuareg war marks erosion of Algeria’s role in Sahel

Bamako-Tuareg war marks erosion of Algeria’s role in Sahel

Malian forces have taken Kidal the stronghold of Tuareg rebels marking the end of a deal brokered by Algiers in 2015 and the erosion of Algeria’s diplomacy in its Sahel neighborhood.

More than a week after Bamako soldiers, backed by Russian Wagner mercenaries, took the strategic town, Algeria’s resounding silence reflects the country’s fading role in a wider Sahel region, plagued by military coups, jihadists, climate change, and under-development.

Both the Tuaregs and their Arab allies, under the umbrella of the Azawad movement, seek an independent state in northern Mali and have taken arms after they blamed Bamako for failing to honor the power-sharing agreements under the Algiers deal of 2015.

The Tuaregs and their Arab allies formed the CSP, a war command, that said it withdrew from Kidal for tactical purposes, in a move that suggests a long guerrilla warfare in the upcoming months.

Observers see the deal as inherently flawed due to Algeria’s self-serving approach which consisted more in exporting the Jihadist issue and keeping refugees away.

As the war escalates between Malian forces and Tuareg rebels, Algeria looks impotently at the real risks of a spill over. Algeria together with Niger have a significant Tuareg population that does not believe or respect colonial borders. Algeria, which has for long exported homegrown Jihadist leaders to the Sahel, fears a return of terrorist fighters who would seek a safe-haven in its vast southern desert.

Most of all, Algiers 2015 deal was on the wrong track since it did not offer any genuine prospect for autonomy for the Tuareg people for the simple reason that Algeria, as a centralized state, fears that its own Tuaregs and other groups in its oil and gas-rich south would ask for the same right.

Algiers’ deal crumbled under the rule of an anti-French and pro-Russian military junta that has asked Algeria literally to mind its business.

Le Monde writes that the outgoing Algerian foreign minister Ramtane Lamamara was “humiliated” during a visit to Bamako and asked to leave Malian issues to Malians.

As the Sahel burns, Algeria’s voice has become inaudible in its own neighborhood. Sahel military juntas are not ready to receive lessons from Algeria, another military-ruled country behind a thin civilian curtain.

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