Azawad declares autonomy, but civil issues yield international condemnation

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azaward declared their independence early Friday morning, in an announcement on their website.

“We, people of the AZAWAD, by the voice of the National Movement for the liberation of Azawad (NMLA),” the announcement begins. “…Irrevocably, proclaim the State of Azawad independent from this day Friday 06 April 2012.”

The announcement continues with a string of declarations: recognition of existing borders with neighboring states; full adherence to the UN Charter; and the commitment of the MNLA to create conditions for peace, as well as to initiate the institutional foundations of the state based on a democratic constitution for independent Azawad.

The announcement ends with an invitation;

The MNLA Executive Committee invites the entire international community in a spirit of justice and peace to recognize the Independent State of AZAWAD without delay.

The MNLA Executive Committee, until the establishment of the Authority of the Territory of AZAWAD, will continue to manage the entire territory.

Gao – 06/04/2012
Secretary General of the MNLA,
Billal Ag Acherif

The declaration follows a cease-fire made Wednesday evening.

The Tuareg, under the MNLA, renewed their struggle for independence late in 2012 after waging years of on-and-off attacks against Mali since the 60s, when France ended its colonial rule.

In March, however, they saw a wave of successes in sweeping up three key towns in northern Mali as the nation reacted to a poorly planned military coup.

The trouble with recognition

With their declaration, the Azawadis hope to legitimize their state with international recognition. However, Reuters reports there has been no showing of support from Africa nor the West.

Algeria, to the north has announced it “…will never accept questioning Mali’s territorial integrity,” and is pushing for dialogue to resolve the crisis with its southern neighbor, according to statement by Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia.

The 54-state African Union also rejected the independence call as “null and of no value whatsoever,” and it urged the rest of the world to shun the secession bid.

in the West, France, where many of the MNLA’s leaders organized in exile, immediately dismissed the declaration.

“A unilateral declaration of independence that was not recognized by African states would have no meaning,” said France’s Defense Minister, Gerard Longuet on Friday.

The U.S. State Department rejected the MNLA declaration as well.

Dissident Islamist factions mire MNLA ideology

It is understood that dissident factions within the MNLA have links to militant Islamists, mainly Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and that a new faction, Ansar Al-Dine under Islamist Ayad Ag Ghaly, has secured control over the city of Timbuktu, in the southwestern corner of Azawad.

While the MNLA maintains a strictly secular interest in the creation of their state, their complicity with these Islamist groups in seizing the north has caused confusion among Western commentators.

In Timbuktu, there are reports of Sharia law in place, and stories have begun to leak, through social networks and news sites, of the violent punishments often associated with Sharia law. In one story, a ‘vandal’s’ hands were cut off for thievery. In another instance, a British hotel-running couple who, with the help of the MNLA, fled the city to safety in the Mauritian capital of Nouakchott after Ansar Al-Dine put a price on their heads.

Hopes of whether or not the MNLA can instill order in Azawad are deteriorating rapidly.

In a video released by Ansar Al-Dine, a commander by the name of Hamahae Omar declares “Our war is a holy war, is a legal war,… We are against the rebellions. We are against independence. All revolutions are not in the name of Islam,… We came to practice Islam in the name of Allah.”

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