Mali Tuaregs, Islamist rebels agree to merge, create new state

BAMAKO Sat May 26, 2012 6:51pm EDT

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BAMAKO (Reuters) - Mali's Tuareg rebel National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and Ansar Dine Islamist militants have agreed to merge and create an independent Islamic state in the north of the country, a rebel spokesman said on Saturday.

The deal between MNLA, which has said it wants an independent secular state in the north, and the al Qaeda-linked Salafist Ansar Dine, which had wanted to impose Sharia across Mali, may complicate international efforts to stabilize Mali after a March coup that plunged the country into chaos.

"The agreement reached this evening will see the merging of the two movements - the MNLA and Ansar Dine - to create an independent Islamic state," MNLA spokesman Mohamed Ag Attaher told Reuters by phone from Gao, in the north of Mali where the deal was signed.

"It will also see the merging of our two forces and the appointment of an executive authority for the Azawad state," Attaher said, referring to the northern regions of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu.

Celebratory gunfire was heard across the city of Gao and Timbuktu after news of the agreement, residents said.

The MNLA separatists, backed by Ansar Dine and other armed groups, taking advantage of a March 22 coup in Bamako, swept through Azawad in April, seizing an area bigger than France.

In the capital Bamako, efforts by regional neighbors to reinstate a civilian government and tackle the rebel occupation, have met with repeated setbacks as the junta seeks to continue to play a role in government.

(Reporting by Cheick Dioura and Adama Diarra; Additional reporting and writing by Bate Felix in Dakar; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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Comments (1)
neahkahnie wrote:
What they are going to have is distance and land to “do their thing,” be it terrorism or what have you.

The question will be as to whether or not it will be an arid, hot, Afghanistan. The question will also be 1) will there be a fight for the Niger River and 2) will Al-Queda use this as a launching point for incursions into Algeria and Libya.

Terrain: Savannah and desert.
Climate: Semitropical in the south; arid in the north.

People
Nationality: Noun and adjective–Malian(s).
Population (2011 est.): 14.1 million.
Annual population growth rate (2011 est.): 2.61%.
Ethnic groups: Manding (Bambara or Bamana, Malinke) 52%, Fulani 11%, Saracole 7%, Mianka 4%, Songhai 7%, Tuareg and Maur 5%, other 14%.
Religions: Islam 90%, indigenous 6%, Christian 4%.
Languages: French (official) and Bambara (spoken by about 80% of the population).
Education: Enrollment–91% (primary, 2008). Literacy–26%.
Health: Infant mortality rate–111/1,000. Life expectancy (2011 est.)–52 years.
Work force (4 million): Agriculture 70%; services 15%; industry and commerce 15%.

Government
Type: Republic.
Independence: September 22, 1960.
Constitution: Approved by referendum January 12, 1992.
Branches: Executive–president (chief of state and commander in chief of the armed forces), prime minister (head of government). Legislative–National Assembly is the sole legislative arm of the government; currently consisting of 147 members. Judicial–Supreme Court with both judicial and administrative powers.
Political parties: Mali is a multiparty democracy. Sixteen political parties are represented in the National Assembly; others are active in local government.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
Administrative subdivisions: Eight regions and capital district.
Central government budget (2009): Revenues–$1.451 billion; expenditures–$2.232 billion; $781 million deficit.

Economy
GDP (2010 est.): $9 billion.
Avg. annual growth rate (2010 est.): 4.5%.
Per capita income (2010 est.): $691.
Annual skilled worker’s salary: $1,560.
Avg. consumer price inflation rate (2009): 2.2%.
Natural resources: Gold, phosphate, kaolin, salt, and limestone currently mined; deposits of oil, bauxite, iron ore, manganese, lithium, and uranium are known or suspected.
Agriculture, livestock, and fishery (32.9% of GDP): Products–millet, sorghum, corn, rice, livestock, sugar, cotton, groundnuts (peanuts), and tobacco.
Industry (21.3% of GDP): Types–food processing, textiles, cigarettes, fish processing, metalworking, light manufacturing, plastics, and beverage bottling.
Services (45.8% of GDP): Telecommunications, construction.
Trade (2009): Exports–$2.079 billion: cotton and cotton products, gold, livestock, fish, tannery products, groundnuts. Major markets–France, Switzerland, Italy, Thailand, Cote d’Ivoire, and Algeria. Imports–$2.292 billion: petroleum products, foodstuffs, machinery and spare parts, vehicles, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, textiles. Major suppliers–France, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, China, U.S. ($31 million), Germany, and Japan.

PEOPLE
Mali’s population consists of diverse sub-Saharan ethnic groups, sharing similar historic, cultural, and religious traditions. Exceptions are the Tuaregs and Maurs, desert nomads, related to the North African Berbers. Although each ethnic group speaks a separate language, nearly 80% of Malians communicate in Bambara, the common language of the marketplace. Historically, good interethnic relations throughout much of the country were facilitated by easy mobility on the Niger River and across the country’s vast savannahs. Each ethnic group was traditionally tied to a specific occupation, all working within close proximity. The Bambara, Malinke, and Dogon are farmers; the Fulani, Maur, and Tuareg are herders; the Soninkes or Saracoles are traders; while the Bozo are fishers. In recent years, this linkage has shifted as ethnic groups seek diverse, nontraditional sources of income.

The Tuaregs have had a history of struggle since Mali’s independence in 1960. A series of rebellions, which were the result of a struggle for greater autonomy, to preserve traditional Tuareg ways of life, and to share in the benefits of a modernizing Malian state, led to clashes with the military from 1963 to 1964 and 1990 to 1996. Peace accords, signed in 1992, aimed to allow greater autonomy in the north and increase government resource allocation to the impoverished region. The peace agreement was celebrated in 1996 in Timbuktu during an official and highly publicized ceremony called Flamme de la Paix–peace flame. Since then, some Tuareg groups have criticized the government for failing to fully implement the terms of the agreement

This is part of the U.S. State Department analysis. The north is arid. The south and west is where the wealth is and along the Niger River. what mineral resources are there including the Possibility of Uranium will need many “pieces of gold” to mine.

May 26, 2012 8:31pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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