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

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid