News / Africa

Mali's MNLA Rebels Look to Talks, Greater Autonomy in North

A fighter with the Tuareg separatist group MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) brandishes a separatist flag for the region they call Azawad outside the local regional assembly, where MNLA members met with the Malian army, the U.N. missio
A fighter with the Tuareg separatist group MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) brandishes a separatist flag for the region they call Azawad outside the local regional assembly, where MNLA members met with the Malian army, the U.N. missio
Anne Look
— Mali's president-elect, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, takes the oath of office on September 4. According to a temporary ceasefire deal signed by Mali's interim government, he will then have 60 days to open talks with Tuareg rebels in the north to try find a solution to decades of periodic rebellion and instability that last year contributed to an unprecedented nationwide collapse.  

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, known more commonly by its French acronym the MNLA, launched their rebellion in January 2012.

It was Mali's fourth major Tuareg rebellion since independence in 1960. Malians say it is up to president-elect Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to make it the last.

The MNLA has backed away from declarations of independence made by some of its members. In the temporary ceasefire agreement signed on June 18, the group recognized Mali's territorial integrity and borders.

Mahamadou Djeri Maiga, the president of the negotiating committee for the MNLA and its ally, the High Council of Azawad (MNLA-HCA), told VOA that they continue to demand greater autonomy.

Maiga said, "We want this to be the last rebellion but to make that happen, we have to speak plainly. What we want is a political and legal status for the territory that we call Azawad. We want to be able to provide our own security and participate actively in its development, in a Mali where we have a say in our own future."

He said president-elect Keita is a man of his word and is "up to the task of bringing definitive peace."

Some in the MNLA talk about obtaining a "special status" for the far northeastern region of Kidal, others talk of installing a sort of federalism in Mali.

This is not new. Mali began decentralization in 1992 as a result of the National Pact between Tuareg rebels and the government. However the process was undermined by corruption and mismanagement and has had limited impact.

The MNLA's external affairs director, Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh, told VOA that they do not want to "cut Mali in two" but ways of governing must be adapted to the unique cultural, historical, and even environmental characters of the three harsh, desert regions in the north.

He said "We want institutions that emerge from our people. We want development programs that come from our people and funding that parachutes directly to our districts, regions and local leaders so they can manage it for the good of the population."
 
However, analysts say for a peace deal to work this time around, it must include input from all northern communities, not just the MNLA, and it must apply everywhere, not just to the north.

Political analyst Issa Ndiaye said, "it will be hard to get Malians to accept a special status for Kidal. The problems are not just in Kidal. We need to find a nationwide solution to implement an enhanced form of decentralization that allows local populations to make decisions about their lives, and in particular about the exploitation of natural resources."

Many Malians blame the MNLA for setting off the chain of events last year that saw the elected government toppled by unruly soldiers in March and the north being taken over by Islamist militant groups just weeks later.

The nomadic Tuareg are a minority ethnic group in Mali's sparsely populated north.  Perceived privileges bestowed on ex-rebels under previous peace accords have bred resentment and perceptions of a kind of "positive discrimination" in favor of the Tuareg.

Keita has pledged to be the "president of reconciliation."  However, he has not said what kind of a deal he would cut with the MNLA.

As president, he has pledged to restore Mali's dignity and military strength. He often punctuates his statements with versions of the following:

"People know me in this country: What I say, I do.  What I say, I do," insisted.

Keita won this month's presidential run-off with 77 percent of the vote.  Analysts say that if anyone has the political capital to push through a compromise with the MNLA, it is him.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid