Mali split deepens as govt rejects rebel secession

Mali's embattled transitional government on Sunday rejected a rebel alliance's declaration of an Islamic state in the vast desert north, a move that has plunged the nation closer to breakup two months after a coup.

The overnight statement by Tuareg and Islamist rebels that they have joined forces to create "the transitional council of the Islamic state of Azawad" came as interim president Dioncounda Traore was in Paris for medical treatment after being assaulted by protesters who stormed his office last week.

It underlined the chaos gripping Mali, once considered an example of democracy in the region, since a March 22 coup.

"The government of Mali categorically rejects the idea of the creation of an Azawad state, even more so of an Islamic state," Hamadoun Toure, information minister in the transitional administration, told AFP.

"Even though this state creation is just on paper and not de facto, we are coming forward to stress that Mali is secular and will remain secular," he said.

The accord between the Islamist group Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) and the secular Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (Tuareg MNLA) comes after weeks of sometimes fraught discussions between two groups that have long held separate objectives and ideologies.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which is playing the role of mediator in the Mali crisis, reacted ambivalently to the move.

"It's always better to negotiate with one single group than with several groups whose interests are sometimes diametrically opposed," said Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibrill Bassole, whose country is leading the talks.

But he said mediators reject any solution that splits the country in two.

"The essential thing (is) that the group choose the option of a negotiated solution to the conflict," he added, calling on the newly formed alliance to "abandon terror and terrorism".

In Gao, a major town in the north where leaders of the two movements have been holding talks, the sealing of the deal was greeted by the sound of guns being fired into the air, local residents said.

"Allah has triumphed," declared Sanda Ould Boumama, an Ansar Dine spokesman in the northern city of Timbuktu.

Tuareg rebels, many of whom were mercenaries who had fought for Moamer Kadhafi and returned heavily armed to their homeland, rekindled their decades-old struggle for autonomy with a massive offensive in mid-January.

A coup by Captain Amadou Sanogo and a group of low-ranking officers ousted the government in Bamako, saying it was incompetent in handling the Tuareg rebellion.

But the coup only opened the way for the Tuaregs, Ansar Dine -- led by the charismatic Ag Ghaly and backed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) -- and criminal groups to occupy the vast north of the country, an area larger than France.

The agreement between the Tuareg MNLA and Ansar Dine leaves AQIM's position in "Azawad" unclear but creates a fresh headache for the transitional authorities in Bamako and the West African bloc ECOWAS.

Regional and Western leaders have long feared a breakaway state in Mali's remote desert north could become Al-Qaeda's main safe haven.

Transitional leaders have stressed their wish to restore the country's territorial integrity but seem unable to guarantee their own safety, let alone mount a credible challenge against the north's new masters.

The uncertain security situation was highlighted by the assault on 70-year-old interim president Traore.

His entourage said tests had revealed nothing alarming and that Traore was expected back in Mali in the coming week.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • ‘Next leader must not be newbie’
    ‘Next leader must not be newbie’

    Vice President Jejomar Binay believes the next president of the Philippines must have vast experience and a long track record in governance and in dealing with crises. “I am very much convinced that the local government is the best training ground for those who want to run for national government positions,” he said. Binay said he is determined to run for president in 2016 on the strength of his competence and track record. …

  • Massacre suspect tests negative for poisoning
    Massacre suspect tests negative for poisoning

    A suspect in the Maguindanao massacre case who had been examined at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) tested negative for poisoning, medical records released yesterday showed. However, the Quezon City court handling the multiple murder case resolved to isolate Police Officer 1 Pia Kamidon from the rest of the accused detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig for his safety. In a two-page order, Regional Trial Court Branch 221 assisting Judge Genie Gapas-Agbada ordered jail officials to …

  • ‘Homework first before Facebook’
    ‘Homework first before Facebook’

    President Aquino elicited laughter from students here as he reminded them to open books first before Facebook. “Finish your assignments first before making a raid in the Clash of Clans,” Aquino said, referring to a popular online game. In a speech during the turnover yesterday of two new three-story buildings at the Tarlac National High School, he said the government could only provide opportunities for learning but the rest of the work would be up to the students. The new school buildings …

  • Espina resignation confirmed; Noy looks for replacement
    Espina resignation confirmed; Noy looks for replacement

    President Aquino ended speculations yesterday and confirmed that Deputy Director General Leonardo Espina had indeed resigned as officer-in-charge of the Philippine National Police. As of this time, we are conducting various interviews and checks on the various candidates,” Aquino told reporters at the Tarlac National High School in Tarlac City. Aquino had kind words for Espina, saying that he stood by and defended the 44 slain police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos in the operation in …

  • Palace welcomes G7 concern over sea reclamation
    Palace welcomes G7 concern over sea reclamation

    President Aquino welcomed yesterday the Group of Seven industrialized countries’ expression of concern over rising tension in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, calling it a clear indication of the global scope of the problem ramped up by China’s massive reclamation activities in disputed waters. In Tarlac City where he led the turnover of new classrooms, Aquino told reporters that goodwill and not tension must prevail in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea, where territorial …

  • DepEd, TESDA tie up for K to 12
    DepEd, TESDA tie up for K to 12

    The Department of Education (DepEd) has partnered with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in the first two years of implementation of the K to 12 program. “We will use TESDA centers as technical-vocational laboratories for senior high school,” DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro said during the inauguration of 30 new classrooms at the Tarlac National High School yesterday. The classrooms were constructed in partnership with the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. …

  • SE Asia Stocks-Philippine falls on foreign selling; others flat to weaker

    BANGKOK, April 17 (Reuters) - Southeast Asian stock markets ended flat to weaker on Friday as Philippine stocks slid on selling led by foreign funds and Singapore shares extended losses with investors ... …

  • Philippine Airlines parent says back in black
    Philippine Airlines parent says back in black

    Philippine Airlines' parent firm said it had returned to profitability, the first time in three years either entity reported being in the black for an entire year. In a filing with the Philippine Stock Exchange Thursday, PAL Holdings reported an after-tax net profit of 129.74 million pesos ($2.93 million) in its fiscal year to December 31. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options