Last month, I reported in this space that the Tuareg rebels of the northern Mali were prepared to set aside their demands for full independence (as some sort of “Republic of Azawad”) but promised that violence could be renewed if the incoming Malian president denied the region its autonomy.
But no sooner did a former prime minister, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, take office, with barely any time to articulate an Azawad policy, than violence has erupted again. The main Tuareg rebel group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (M.N.L.A.), was calling, on September 4th, for pro-independence protests protests to coincide with the inauguration of “I.B.K.,” as Malians call their new leader. He had promised to open negotiations with the M.N.L.A. within 60 days of taking office.
On September 11th, it was reported that M.N.L.A. rebels clashed with Malian government soldiers near Léré, in the Niafunké district of Timbuktu province, near the border with Mauritania but also right near the former border between the three provinces that make up “Azawad” and the Mopti province that forms a buffer between Tuareg and non-Tuareg parts of Mali. Each side blames the other for starting the violence, which violates a cease-fire agreed to in June. Three Malian troops were injured.
|Where Tuaregs live.|
|Ansar al-Dine on parade|
What happens next is anyone’s guess. This, the Fifth Tuareg Rebellion (by many historians’ count), may not be over yet. Or we may be ready for a sixth. Without the Islamist factor, it remains to be seen how much the outside world will care this time.
[Also, for those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas. Look for it some time in 2013. I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.]