It’s interesting to see the MNLA’s new strategy: adopt the terrorism language of their nation state counterparts. It’s hard to say how this will turn out for them, but it makes for intriguing news nonetheless:
“The MNLA is not physically in every city in the Azawad, but that doesn’t mean we don’t exist … Azawad is a very large territory,” he said.
“We’re open to any collaboration against terrorism … we’re listening to the international community and are available for possible dialogue with Mali via mediator countries,” he said. But for now we haven’t seen will from Mali to sit at the negotiating table.”
“We’re currently working on a new military strategy to fight against terrorism in Azawad,” he added.
The AJE article characterizes the MNLA as having less military capability than Ansar Dine, but this goes in the face of Jeremy Keenan’s statements about the Tuareg insurgencies. It is clear, however, that Ansar Dine is the louder, more troublesome rebellion, and this may account for AJE’s characterization.
The ICG distributed a statement on the crisis, warning ECOWAS to not aggravate the “deep fault lines” in Malian society. This is good advice: the war has an ethnic dimension, but still remains a territorial and political dispute over autonomy. It is possible, though not certain, that foreign intervention could turn this into something else.
ECOWAS countries willing to send troops do not appear to fully grasp the complex social situation in northern Mali, and underestimate the high risk of inter-tribal settling of scores that would result from external military intervention. Such an intervention would turn Mali into a new front of the war on terror at the expense of longstanding political demands in the north and rule out any chance of peaceful coexistence between the different communities.
It’s useful to remember that the MNLA blocked out Ansar Dine’s leader prior to the start of hostilities, though ICG, in their recommendations, lumps them together in a single statement:
To the Leaders of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad and Ansar Dine:
12. Formulate publicly clear agendas and commit to:
a) respecting human rights and the principles of democratic and pluralist governance, especially with regard to religion, in the areas under their control;
b) guaranteeing security and equal access of the population to basic public services and facilitating the access of humanitarian organisations to the population;
c) helping to establish the facts regarding the atrocities at Aguelhoc as well as all other atrocities perpetrated during the military conquest of the north;
d) combatting the criminal trafficking activities that thrive in the territory they control;
e) joining immediately the fight against AQIM and its armed offshoots; and
f) exploring with the Malian government how to reach a rapprochement to avoid a lasting partition of the country and an internecine war.
Though they don’t mention it, I think recent news and the MNLA’s statements regarding combating terrorism may be reason for another recommendation to the parties invovled in the fate of the Azawad:
Make efforts to move the MNLA further from Ansar Dine and their goals