News / Africa

    Mali Rebels Meet with ECOWAS Mediator

    Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh (L), leader of a team of National Liberation Movement of Azawad (MNLA) speaks to Burkina Faso's minister of foreign affairs Dijbril Bassolé (R) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, June 9, 2012
    Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh (L), leader of a team of National Liberation Movement of Azawad (MNLA) speaks to Burkina Faso's minister of foreign affairs Dijbril Bassolé (R) in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, June 9, 2012
    Nancy Palus
    Mali’s Tuareg separatist rebels are eager to negotiate with regional and international leaders on a way forward in northern Mali, one of the group’s leaders said on Saturday. The rebels, who sent a delegation to meet with ECOWAS mediators, looked to distance themselves from Islamic extremist groups with whom they currently share power in the region.
     
    A National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) delegation met with Burkina Faso President and ECOWAS mediator Blaise Compaoré on Saturday.
     
    The international community is wrestling with the chaotic status of Mali’s vast desert north, where fighters with Islamic extremist groups, including al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, swept in with MNLA to chase out the Malian army and government just over two months ago. With the more radical groups dominating in the region since, MNLA has found itself in a difficult position, with its aim of an independent Tuareg state getting lost in a wider problem.
     
    MNLA's Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh talked to reporters just after the meeting in the Burkina capital Ouagadougou.

    He said MNLA sets itself apart from all groups in the region of Islamic or terrorist orientation.  Assaleh acknowledged that the Tuareg separatists had tried to create an alliance with the Tuareg Islamist group Ansar Dine, but saw that it would not stand.  
     
    MNLA, which has long maintained that it is committed to fighting terrorism, raised eyebrows in late May when it announced a pact with Ansar Dine, a group said to have close ties with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb and which seeks to enforce a strict interpretation of Islamic law in Mali.
     
    Assaleh said imposing sharia is not part of his group's political vision, not part of their culture, nor part of their tradition.

    MNLA benefitted from Islamic fighters in capturing northern Mali, but the political line was unclear at the time and now troubles are surfacing. Only days after the MNLA-Ansar Dine alliance was announced, the group's political wing backed away from it.  On Friday and Saturday there were reports of clashes between the two groups in Mali’s northern Kidal region.

    Assaleh said he delivered an official letter from MNLA’s secretary-general to Compaoré, stating that the group is ready to negotiate and accepts ECOWAS and the international mediation toward an end to the crisis in northern Mali.
     
    Assaleh said it is only normal that MNLA sit with regional and international leaders to hammer out just what a Tuareg independent state would look like.
     
    Burkina’s Foreign Minister, Djibril Bassolé, told reporters the meeting was not an opening of official negotiations between MNLA and ECOWAS mediators,  but rather a discussion over terms for an eventual dialogue.
     
    He said what’s positive is that MNLA indicated its willingness to find a negotiated solution with ECOWAS and the international community.
     
    Bassolé, who said he would be in New York next week to brief the United Nations Security Council on Mali, noted that MNLA representatives would likely also meet soon with other ECOWAS heads of state.
     
     At a June 7 meeting in Abidjan, ECOWAS said they would request a U.N. resolution providing official support for a military intervention in Mali. Regional leaders pledged negotiations were to continue with parties in northern Mali, “except terrorist groups”.

    You May Like

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora