The coup in Bamako is a direct consequence of the ongoing conflict in Azawad: the military had to provide answers to their people and for some time there has been strong political opposition due to the success of the offensive, the Secretary General of the National Liberation Movement dell’Azawad (MNLA), Bilal Ag Acherif, told MISNA. The new ‘leaders’ added that they “are ready for negotiations as we were before, but we are equally prepared to respond militarily.”
The objectives of your movement remain unchanged?
“We are fighting for the self-determination of the Azawad, a region historically divided by Mali. And we’re doing it in the name of all its components, not only the Touareg, including the Songhai and the Arabs as well. Currently, we control the entire border area with Mauritania, Algeria, Niger and Burkina Faso, the fighting is continuing in Azawad, our hope is to leave in a few days Gao and Kidal, Timbuktu, perhaps.”
You said that you would be willing to start negotiations. But the military justified the coup in Bamako denouncing the mismanagement of the war by President Amadou Toumani Toure and may decide to send more men and equipment to the north.
“If they do will be a disaster for them, the humanitarian situation, already difficult, will be the beginning of a new phase of conflict. What we require is the intervention of the international community, especially Europe, to find a road that leads to self-determination policy for the Azawad. We want and ask for dialogue.”
Bamako is accusing you of being allied with extremist groups, have formed alliances with terrorist groups like Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (Aqmi), with groups of religious as Ansar Al Din, with criminal organizations involved in trafficking.
“There is so much propaganda and many times we have denied media allegations of Mali. It ‘true that Ansar al-Din is fighting for the freedom of Azawad. Some officials also say they want to impose Islamic law in the territory, what interests us at this moment is finally getting the liberation of our land from the occupation of Mali.”
Will you wait to see what happens in Bamako before actuating your plans?
“For us nothing has changed. We continue to fight for freedom whatever the name of the new ruler in Mali. But we leave the door open for negotiations and invite the international community to become a mediator and to understand the reasons of the Azawadi people, to learn about our history. I hope that the military now in power will not try to change the inevitable course of events “.