OUAGADOUGOU (Reuters) - Tuareg separatists said on Saturday they were rejoining the peace process in northern Mali, just over a week after they pulled out and accused Bamako of not respecting the terms of a truce signed in June.
The three separatist groups, including the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, or MNLA, rebels, made the announcement after Malian authorities released 23 insurgents last week to comply with the terms of the ceasefire signed in Ouagadougou.
“We announce the end of the suspension of our participation,” said the statement, also signed by the High Council for the Unity of Azawad, or HCUA, and the Arab Movement of Azawad, or MAA.
Azawad is the name the separatists give to northern Mali.
The three groups said they would return to participation in a committee monitoring the implementation of the June agreement, including the disarmament and return of combatants to barracks and the release of prisoners.
MNLA Vice President Mahamadou Djeri Maiga, called, however, for the postponement of legislative elections due on November 24 because much of the population of northern Mali was still displaced in the wake of the conflict.
The Tuareg uprising in 2012 led to a military coup in Bamako and the occupation of the northern half of Mali by Islamist militants during the subsequent chaos.
A French-led ground and air offensive drove out the Islamists, allowing the Tuareg separatists to recapture their traditional northern stronghold of Kidal.
The desert region has produced four rebellions since independence from France in 1960. Its light-skinned Tuareg people say successive black African governments in the capital have excluded them from power.
The separatists’ suspension of participation in the peace process on September 26 was quickly followed by a grenade attack that wounded two soldiers in Kidal and two days of clashes between the military and MNLA rebels in the town.
June’s ceasefire enabled national elections to take place in July and August. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, a former prime minister, was elected by a landslide with a pledge to reunify the country and restore its pride.
The separatist movements, which met on Friday with the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission to Mali, Bert Koenders, welcomed in their statement Keita’s recent efforts to ensure implementation of the Ouagadougou accords.
Reporting by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Peter Cooney