Mali's Tuareg Rebels Declare Independence


unhealthy geneva; font-size: small;”>Rebels of the nomadic Tuareg people have declared the independence of the remote northern region of Azawad, store citing 50 years of bad governance and UN articles on the rights of native people.

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The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA), which has seized control of the region, accused Mali’s governments of attempting to wipe out the Tuaregs, including by starving them during various droughts.

Malian Tuareg colonels who fought for Muammar Gaddafi in Libya and returned home heavily armed have led the rebellion, which has taken advantage of a coup in the distant capital of Bamako.

The NMLA is fighting alongside a radical Islamist group called the Ansar Dine, or Defenders of the Faith, which earlier announced it was imposing sharia law in the ancient city of Timbuktu.

“Considering the complete liberation of the territory of Azawad, we irrevocably proclaim the independent state of Azawad counting from today, Friday 6 April 2012,” a statement from the NMLA’s military leader and the movement’s secretary general, Billal Ag Acherif, said. Acherif is a former Libyan army colonel.

The statement also cited “the accumulation of more than 50 years of bad governance, of corruption and of military-political-financial collusion, endangering the existence of the people of Azawad and imperiling the stability of the sub-region and international peace.”

The rebels launched their insurgency in January, saying they wanted to establish an independent Tuareg homeland. They only succeeded in taking small towns until 21 March, when disgruntled soldiers stormed the presidential palace in the distant capital of Bamako, overthrowing the democratically elected president.

In the confusion that followed the coup, the rebels launched a new offensive and succeeded in taking the capitals of the three main northern provinces. Kidal fell last Friday, Gao on Saturday and Timbuktu on Sunday.


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