Azawad Conflict


Azawad (Tuareg-Berber: ⴰⵣⴰⵡⴰⴷ Azawad; Arabic: أزواد ‎ Azawād) is a territory situated in northern Mali as well as a former unrecognised state. Its independence was declared unilaterally by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) in 2012 after a Tuareg rebellion drove the Malian Army from the territory. Azawad, as claimed by the MNLA, comprises the Malian regions of Timbuktu, Kidal, Gao, as well as a part of Mopti region, encompassing about 60 percent of Mali’s total land area. Azawad borders Burkina Faso to the south, Mauritania to the west and northwest, Algeria to the north and northeast, and Niger to the east and southeast, with undisputed Mali to its southwest. It straddles a portion of the Sahara and the Sahelian zone. Gao is its largest city and served as the temporary capital, while Timbuktu is the second-largest city, and intended to be the capital. On 6 April 2012, in a statement posted to its website, the MNLA declared “irrevocably” the independence of Azawad from Mali. In Gao on the same day, Bilal Ag Acherif, the secretary-general of the movement, signed the Azawadi Declaration of Independence, which also declared the MNLA as the interim administrators of Azawad until a “national authority” is formed. The proclamation has yet to be recognised by a foreign entity, and even the MNLA’s claim to have de facto control of the Azawad region was disputed. The Economic Community of West African States, which refused to recognise Azawad and called the declaration of its independence “null and void”, has said it may send troops into the disputed region in support of the Malian claim. On 26 May, the MNLA and its former co-belligerent Ansar Dine announced a pact in which they would merge to form an Islamist state. However, some later reports indicated the MNLA had decided to withdraw from the pact, distancing itself from Ansar Dine. Ansar Dine later declared that they rejected the idea of Azawad independence. The MNLA and Ansar Dine continued to clash, culminating in the Battle of Gao on 27 June, in which the Islamist groups Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa and Ansar Dine took control of the city, driving out the MNLA. The following day, Ansar Dine announced that it was in control of all the cities of northern Mali. On 14 February 2013 the MNLA renounced their claim of independence for Azawad and asked the Malian government to start negotiations on its future status.