Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Azawad-Africa's Newest Country?

In northeastern Mali, Tuareg and Islamist rebel groups have declared a new country of Azawad. There have been several previous rebellions by ethnic Tuaregs in Mali, but in this case they have been able to take advantage of the instability resulting from a recent coup in the country. The Wise Men Center for Strategic Studies has a very detailed article that includes the maps below.

 The area in pink is Azawad. It covers more than half the area of Mali. The important cities of the region Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu are all under rebel control. Conflicts between the secular Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and Islamist groups that aspire to install Sharia Law will make it difficult to hold the region together. Malians generally practice a tolerant Sufi-leaning version of Islam and the recent destruction of a UNESCO World Heritage protected tomb in Timbuktu by an Al-Qaeda linked militant is likely to generate more resistance to these groups in the region.

Complicating the matter is the complex web of relationships with neighboring countries spelled out in detail in the article above. Niger in particular is wary as they also have a widespread population of Tuaregs with a similar history of government oppression. The map below shows Tuareg areas in purple.

 The new state has been condemned by most international organizations and will have little support without a public referendum. However, the longer Mali remains unstable the more legitimate these claims to independence will become.

No comments: