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Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said on Monday that the authorities are now ready to speak with terrorist groups in the hope of ending the rebellion that has left parts of the country impassable and fueled ethnic violence.
According to “Reuters”, Kita told the French media that the escalating bloodshed in the central and northern regions of Mali prompted a rethinking of Bamako.
“Why do we not try to contact those we know who are controlling the threads?” He said in a recording of the interview, published by Radio France International. “The death toll on the coast has increased exponentially. It is time to explore specific routes,” he added.
Keita did not say what had been done to talk to terrorist groups. But he said that former President Dionkunda Traore, his high representative in central Mali, “has a mission to listen to everyone.”
French forces intervened in 2013 to expel the rebels who seized northern Mali the previous year, but the militants had reorganized their ranks, and had taken advantage of sectarian conflicts to recruit them and expand their reach into central Mali.
The International Crisis Group, a conflict prevention body, said last year that seeking dialogue with rebels might face some opposition inside and outside Mali from those who feared it would legitimize groups and their ideas.
The government has already announced that it will recruit 10,000 additional soldiers to counter the terrorist threat, and that France will send 600 soldiers to add them to the 4,500 it already has on the coast or with 14,000 US troops in a peacekeeping mission in the region.
But Ute Collis, the United Nations humanitarian affairs official in Mali, said last week that additional forces would not solve the crisis and urged political participation.
Human Rights Watch said in a report on Monday that at least 456 civilians were killed and hundreds wounded in central Mali alone in the bloodiest year for millions since the unrest began.