“Without the frank and direct involvement of the Tuareg, it is illusory to hope for a definitive solution and lasting peace”, the MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad) representative in Europe, Mossa Ag Attaher, wrote in a letter to United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, in what sounded both like a proposal and threat.
The Tuareg separatist rebels launched an offensive in northern Mali on January 17, forced then to ally with the armed Islamic groups – Ansar al Din and MUJAO (Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa) – which in the end got the best of the MNLA.
The letter, titled “Wiping out of the Islamo-narco-terrorist plague in the Sahel region”, coincides with a series of meetings at the UN, called to issue a UN Security Council resolution on the option of sending African troops to end an Islamist occupation of the North.
The international community remains divided on the strategy to adopt in Mali and the Sahel in general, so far only naming a special envoy. While expressing regret at “distrust towards the MNLA” from the international community, Ag Attaher ruled out any “unnatural alliance” with the Islamist groups, adding that the Tuareg are the only “objective, credible and unavoidable ally in the struggle against the dark forces implanted in the Azawad”. The MNLA representative in Europe stressed that he was writing on behalf of the Transitional Council of the Azawad, his movement’s provisional government.
Attending the formal go ahead of the UN on a military intervention of the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), not certain given to the divisions, South African President Jacob Zuma stated that his country is ready to “provide troops alongside the other forces to resolve the problem”. The diplomatic representative of France, a strong supporter of a military option, insisted that “the time lost in entering in action is reinforcing the terrorist”, stated Foreign minister Laurent Fabius, adding that “we must persuade the Russians, Chinese and Americans” before the UN Security Council meeting next week. Though the US has taken a cautious stand, reports indicate that an ‘operational’ meeting was held between the US Command in Africa, General Carter and Mauritian President Ould Abdel Aziz. Mauritania, along with Niger and Algeria, have so far declined a participation in an eventual military mission in Mali, despite launching various operations in the territory against militants of the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI).
The debate on Mali’s future is obviously closely followed in Bamako, by leaders, the people and mainly soldiers, divided on a response in the northern crisis. Attention is also focused on unrest yesterday at a police base, as also continuing tension between the ‘Red Berets’ – parachutists and guards of former president Amadou Toumani Touré – and ‘Green Berets’ close to the military junta headed by Amadou Haya Sanogo, who on March 22 ousted president ‘ATT’. Men in uniform this morning arrested General Sadio Gassama, Touré’s last Defence Minister.