Mali aims to complete a dialogue with former rebels this year that will lead to lasting peace and help the government explore prospects for economic growth, Prime Minister Moussa Mara said.
“A rebellion is political and is settled politically,” Mara said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Abuja, Nigeria yesterday, addressing the conflicts with separatists and Islamist militants that have plagued the country since 2012.
“Those who are acting in good faith will join the process,” Mara said. “Those who are terrorists, drug traffickers, criminals with another agenda, will be differentiated so that we can fight them in the most appropriate way.”
Mali’s battle with Islamist militias and ethnic Touareg separatists led to a French military intervention and caused widespread damage, especially in the country’s north. Mara said there are links between the militants who previously occupied parts of Mali and the Boko Haram group that’s waging a campaign of violence in Nigeria.
The prime minister said his plans for development of Mali’s $10 billion economy include a railway project to link the landlocked country with Guinea, which he’s submitted to his Chinese counterpart. He said it would also involve construction of a steel plant. Another project is the restoration of a railway link to Senegal.
The country’s poor state of infrastructure, mainly power and transport, is one of the biggest impediment to business in the country, according to the African Development Bank.
“We have enormous potential in the mining sector, we have an extraordinary agricultural potential, of which less than 10 percent is being utilized,” Mara said. The perception of landlocked nations being handicapped is in fact “an opportunity, because it makes us a transit zone, he said.
Mara said the government needs to work on agriculture and the service industry to achieve its economic growth target of 6.5 percent this year. The International Monetary Fund said in March that Mali should meet the goal provided there’s a reasonable harvest.