Mali’s government has adopted a “national consensus” law that could lead to amnesty for rebels who took part in a 2012 revolt, in a bid to move the country on from unrest that has repeatedly stalled elections.
The government said in a statement issued in the early hours of Friday that the law had been passed and sought “to transcend the painful legacy of the crisis born in 2012,” the year Islamist extremists linked to Al-Qaeda took control of the country’s desert north.
The government has repeatedly postponed elections citing security concerns, with a presidential poll now scheduled for July 29.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced he would run for re-election this week, vowing to deliver “successful national reconciliation”.
A cabinet statement said the new law would offer a pardon to those who showed remorse for violent actions and “offer the possibility of reintegration to those who were implicated in armed rebellion (who) show sincere repentance”.
The law, the text of which was not immediately released to the media, would also provide compensation and public assistance to the victims, the statement said.
Human rights associations had urged Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga in March, when the draft law was unveiled, to suspend the legislation long enough to allow an independent enquiry to “distinguish those who have blood on their hands from those who do not”.
In his end of year message, Keita said those caught up in the conflict who did not have “blood on their hands” would be offered amnesty.
Northern Mali was overrun in March and April 2012 after al-Qaeda-linked jihadists hijacked a rebellion by ethnic Tuareg groups.
A French-led military operation largely drove out the jihadists in 2013.
However, Mali’s army, French soldiers and a UN mission still have little control over large tracts of the West African country, despite a 2015 peace accord with Tuareg rebels designed to isolate the Islamists.
The past two years have seen Islamist attacks spread to central and southern areas as well as over the border into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Regional elections, already pushed back from December to April, were again postponed in March to the end of 2018.