Some 5,000 fighters signed up to a disarmament programme in Mali’s conflict-plagued central region including suspected ex-jihadists, before a January 31 deadline, an official said Wednesday.
Mali’s Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga announced in December the creation of the “Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) process” to boost defence and security in the region.
Malian forces, with the aid of France, fought off a jihadist insurgency that took control of swathes of the north in 2012, but large areas remain out of the government’s control.
“By the deadline of January 31… 5,000 fighters were registered as carrying weapons of war,” DDR commission president Zahabi Ould Sidy Mohamed told AFP.
Of these, 600 had already handed in their arms.
The group included “former jihadists and members of armed groups”, Mohamed said.
In the next two weeks, officials will determine which state body the men can be best reassigned to, with the armed and security forces among the options.
Mohamed said that with the help of NGOs, those among the men suspected of having committed human rights violations will be identified and “cannot in any way be integrated into the Malian army”.
The country remains prone to violence despite a 2015 peace accord designed to isolate radical Islamists and the continued presence of French and UN forces in the region.
Since then, attacks have extended to central and southern regions of the former French colony, spilling over into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.