Mali 'Rebels' Form Council, Neighbors Consider Intervention

Article Summary
Atef Adadirah reports that after the Tuareg rebellion drove the Malian army from the north, the MNLA has formed its own transition council, composed of members from various tribes. Meanwhile, surrounding nations are urging for military intervention to flush out what they perceive as armed rebel groups.

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA, the political representation of the Tuareg-held northern portion of Mali) has announced the formation of a transitional council, a political maneuver to impose independence as a fait accompli. The council consists of leaders from different tribes: Bilal Agh al-Sharif has been appointed as head of the council, the movement’s spiritual leader Mohammad Najim was put in charge of the defense portfolio and Colonel Hasan Faghagha was reappointed as head of internal security.

The MNLA said that it has reached a consensus on the composition of the transitional council. Bilal Agh al-Sharif, secretary-general of the movement, was appointed as head of the council, his father-in-law Agh Mahmoud was put in charge of external relations and international cooperation, while Colonel Mohammed Najim was placed in charge of defense. These tasks were assigned according to a “consensus” among the major tribes. The council includes military leaders who were previously affiliated with the “May 23” alliance, which led a rebellion five years ago. The new council is composed of 28 new members, in which Hasan Faghagha is in charge of internal security.

The MNLA signed the agreement with Islamic Ansar al-Din; the pact initiates the formation of a transitional council. This council will be responsible for “preparing and implementing the Azawadi state’s general policy regarding security, foreign policy, education, health, social coexistence and managing the country.'' However, the council leaders do not appear to include members of the Ansar al-Din movement. Regardless, the movement created a “ministerial portfolio'' headed by Abdullah Agh Pakai who would be in charge of Islamic guidance and direction, which appeases' the Salafi Ansar al-Din group in particular.

The group said that the transitional council is ''the legitimate representative of the Azawad state at the international level,'' stressing that part of its role is to “lead dialogue and negotiations, and to promote relations with other countries and international organizations and bodies.” They added that Azawad’s transitional council ''remains open to all components of Azawadi society in order to help build the Azawadi state.”

Following the formation of the “Azawadi government,'' Nigerien president Mahamadou Issoufou and Guinean president Alpha Condé urged direct military intervention in Mali “to expel the rebels from the capital city Bamako and eject armed groups from the north of the country, which has been controlled by these groups for over two months.” Niger’s position contradicted its commitment to Algeria when it rejected military intervention in Mali. This may create possible tensions with Niamey, the capital of Niger.

Algeria refuses to address financial issues at the UN Security Council and fears a scenario similar to what happened in Libya. Algeria says that the solution proposed in northern Mali is based on six principles, including dialogue and rejecting a compromise over Mali’s territorial integrity.

Shortly after meeting with his Nigerien counterpart, who made a short visit to the capital Conakry, Guinea’s president said that “Bamako needs military intervention.'' Referring to the attack on Malian interim President Dioncounda Traore last month, Condé asked: “How is it possible to enter a presidential palace and mistreat a president? If this can be done to a president, then how can any politician be safe?''

The president of Guinea stressed the need for military intervention in the north of the country “in order to expel the armed Islamic groups.” For his part, Nigerien President Mamadou Issoufou expressed his support for finding solutions through dialogue, saying that “the best thing is to search for solutions based on negotiations, but if this cannot be achieved, then military intervention is necessary.''

Found in: mali, salafi ansar al-din group, islamic ansar al-din group, transitional council, national movement for the liberation of azawad [mnla]

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