Pro-Azawad protesters crowding in front of the camp where the Malian army is staying. Photo by Othman Ag Mohamed.
Since the Malian army arrived in the northern town of Kidal on Friday, tensions have been rising between residents who support the soldiers’ presence and those who want them to leave. Demonstrators have been holding daily protests at a military camp in the west of the city. Meanwhile, about a hundred pro-army Kidal residents have taken refuge inside the camp because they fear reprisals.
The Ouagadougou peace accord, signed on June 18 between the Malian state and representatives of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), decreed that armed Tuareg groups in Kidal would be placed under close surveillance by the army ahead of the presidential elections on July 29.
In spite of this, the arrival of 200 soldiers caused tensions to spike between MNLA independence activists and civilians that came to celebrate the soldiers’ arrival. These civilians were forced to take refuge in Camp 1, where Malian soldiers will be posted until all Tuareg fighters are placed in another camp and disarmed.
In a press release on Monday, the Malian army accused the MNLA activists in Kidal of “serious violations” of the Ouagadougou accord and claimed that three soldiers from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (Minusma) — including one French national
— were injured by rocks thrown by protesters as they were securing the camp’s perimeter.
The Malian army last set foot in Kidal roughly a year and a half ago. The city had fallen to MNLA fighters and jihadists from the armed group Ansar Dine in March 2012, and was then occupied by the latter for nine months. The MNLA re-took Kidal in January 2013 with the help of the French army, with whom the MNLA had teamed up to fight its former ally.
Protesters, including women and children, in front of Camp 1 in Kidal on Saturday. Photo posted on Facebook by Touareg Libya.