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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid