October 13, 2015 / 7:29 PM / in 2 years

Tuareg clans at heart of Mali conflict end feud

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Two rival Tuareg clans in northern Mali have ended a decades-old feud that has frustrated efforts to halt a conflict between pro-government militias and separatists, according to documents seen by Reuters.

The Ifoghas and Inghad clans have clashed for decades but their rivalry took on a new dimension when Tuareg separatists led by the Ifoghas group seized the country's north in 2012, with support from Islamist fighters.

A French-led military offensive in January 2013 drove out the Islamists but tensions persisted between the government and the separatists.

A peace deal in June failed to end that violence, with the Platform pro-government militia, led by the Inghad clan, fighting its way deep into the territory controlled by the separatists but failing to take their stronghold of Kidal.

An accord signed by the two clans' leaders following talks last week pledged to turn the page and consult on issues of shared political and economic interest in the desert region.

"The parties agreed ... to resolve all differences by dialogue and do everything to consolidate security and unity," said the Oct. 10 document obtained by Reuters.

It said any issues not resolved by dialogue would be referred to Islamic judges. A commission would be created to monitor the implementation of the deal.

While the noble Ifoghas clan has long sought greater freedom from Bamako, the Inghad group has seen alliance with the Malian state as a means of escaping its traditional subjugated role.

It was not immediately clear whether the agreement had widespread backing as analysts say the tension has been complicated by personal enmity between certain clan leaders and battles for control of trafficking routes across the Sahara.

However, an official from GATIA, an armed group that is part of Platform, said the accord was the result of a grassroots community initiative: "The people are tired of war."

On Monday, the Malian government it would spend 100 billion CFA francs ($175 million) a year between 2016 and 2018 to finance June's U.N.-backed accord. The funds from international donors will go toward roads, agricultural development, schools and clinics, it said.

France and other OECD countries will host a conference on peace and development in northern Mali on Oct. 22 in Paris.

With armed Islamist groups still active in upper Mali, at least six civilians were killed in an attack on an escorted convoy outside the northern town of Gao.

Reporting by Adama Diarra in Bamako and Souleymane Ag Anara in Anefis; Additional reporting by Tiemoko Diallo in Bamako and Emma Farge in Dakar; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Daniel Flynn and Alison Williams

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