October 24, 2012 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 892

MNLA Reaction To ECOWAS Intervention Plan In Azawad: 'We Are The Only Credible Ally In The Fight Against Terrorism In The Sahel'

October 24, 2012 | By Anna Mahjar-Barducci*
Africa | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 892

UN Security Council Resolution Presses ECOWAS To Speed Up Preparations For Military Intervention In Azawad

A map of Azawad. Image source: France 24

On September 17, 2012, the ECOWAS[1] foreign and defense ministers met in the capital of the Ivory Coast, Abidjan, to approve the ECOWAS mission to Azawad, known as MICEMA. The mission has two goals: to restore stability to Mali after the March 21, 2012 coup, and to reunite Azawad with Mali. The ECOWAS has had 3,300 regional troops on standby for months,[2] but was awaiting a formal request to seek UN Security Council approval for a military deployment – a request that came in early September.[3]

On October 12, 2012, the UN Security Council approved Resolution 2071, that presses the ECOWAS to speed up preparations for a military intervention in Azawad[4] (see Appendix I). The Security Council asked UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to work with ECOWAS and the African Union (AU) in order to submit within 45 days "detailed and actionable recommendations" in preparation for the deployment of an international military force, with reference to the means and modalities of the envisaged deployment, in particular the concept of operations, the personnel needed and a cost estimate. The UN is to provide "military and security planners" to ECOWAS and the AU to assist with the preparations.[5] According to the Botswana Gazette, the resolution was mainly drafted by France.[6]

Even before the passing of the UN resolution, on October 9, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the appointment of former Italian PM and former president of the European Commission Romano Prodi[7] as his special envoy for the Sahel. Prodi will coordinate the UN efforts to finalize and implement the UN integrated regional strategy for that region, conducting consultations with UN member states from the region and with regional and sub-regional organizations and other international partners.[8] The UN and the AU also announced that they would open permanent offices in Bamako to coordinate their actions in Azawad.[9]

France has expressed its willingness to help organize a military intervention in Azawad by providing logistical support and training.[10] As for the U.S., the head of the Germany-based U.S. Africa Command, Gen. Carter Ham, said that an overall solution of the Azawad crisis would include "a military component," but ruled out an overt U.S. military presence.[11]

The following table summarizes the positions of the Security Council members on the Azawad crisis:



France (permanent member and Mali's former colonial power)

Supports immediate intervention

United States (permanent member)

Supports France's position in favor of a military intervention[12]

Russia (permanent member)


United Kingdom (permanent member)

Military intervention only as last resort[13].

In September, MP Stephen O'Brien was appointed as the UK's new Special Representative for the Sahel.

China (permanent member)

Supports the reunification of Mali. "China firmly supports the position of Mali," said Guo Xueli, charge d'affaires at the Chinese Embassy in the Mali capital of Bamako. "We are going to bring our assistance to the extent possible, specifically in the military where we already have a very old cooperation."[14]

Morocco (non-permanent member)

Opposes military intervention[15]

Pakistan (non-permanent member)


Azerbaijan (non-permanent member)


Guatemala (non-permanent member)

"There is a feeling that it is a dire situation in northern Mali and we need prompt action," said Guatemala's envoy to the United Nations, Gert Rosenthal. "But it is a very complex operation... this will be the first step towards something more robust, I hope."[16]

Togo (non-permanent member)

Supports military intervention.[17]

Germany (non-permanent member, terms end on December 31, 2012)

Supports military intervention.[18]

South Africa (non-permanent member, terms end on December 31, 2012)

Supports military intervention, and has offered to send troops to support an ECOWAS military mission.[19]

Portugal (non-permanent member, terms end on December 31, 2012)


India (non-permanent member, terms end on December 31, 2012)


Colombia (non-permanent member, terms end on December 31, 012)


The MNLA's Reaction To A Military Intervention

The secular and Tuareg-led National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) reacted promptly to the ECOWAS proposal, saying that any military intervention in Azawad's territory should be coordinated with it. Since declaring Azawad's independence on April 6, 2012, the MNLA has been fighting to maintain stability in Azawad in the face of Islamist and terrorist movements, which were already present in the area and are attempting to take it over, and also in the face of opposition from Mali and neighboring countries, which do not want to see an independent state with a Tuareg majority in the region. Today the MNLA is stressing the need for cooperation in fighting the terrorists in Azawad, saying that any ECOWAS or international intervention that excludes the MNLA is doomed to fail, because the ECOWAS troops lack the ability to fight in Azawad's harsh desert conditions and will be easily be defeated.

The MNLA urged ECOWAS to recognize the partition of Mali and help the MNLA fight the Islamist groups. The organization also stressed that the reunification of Mali would not bring stability, considering the unstable political situation in Mali's capital, Bamako. In a September 30, 2012 article published by Toumast Press, Attaye Ag Mohamed, director of information and communication in the MNLA's transitional council (the CTEA), stated that since the coup, "the power, or rather 'powers,' in Bamako are sinking deeper and deeper into their conflicts, which are an obstacle to peace and stability in the [West African] sub-region" (see Appendix II).

The Problems Facing An ECOWAS Intervention

ECOWAS member countries, in green. Azawad is not recognized as an independent country and is considered part of Mali.

An ECOWAS intervention is problematic for two reasons:

Disagreements Inside ECOWAS And Among Regional and International Forces

ECOWAS members are divided on the advisability of an immediate intervention in Azawad, as summarized in the following table:



1-Ivory Coast – President Alassane Ouattara (ECOWAS Chairman, February 17, 2012-present)

Supports ECOWAS military intervention

2-Burkina Faso – President Blaise Compaoré (ECOWAS Top Mediator)

Supports ECOWAS intervention if talks fail[20]

3-Mali - President Dioncounda Traoré

Government divided on ECOWAS military intervention

4-Niger- President - Mahamadou Issoufou

Supports an immediate ECOWAS military intervention[21]

5-Senegal – President Macky Sall

Supports ECOWAS military intervention[22]

12-Nigeria - President Goodluck Jonathan

Supports ECOWAS intervention[23]

7-Benin – President Yayi Boni (acting chairman of the African Union)

Supports international military intervention[24]

8-Ghana - President John Dramani Mahama

Supports ECOWAS intervention[25]

9-Guinea – President Alpha Condé

Supports ECOWAS military intervention[26]

10-Guinea Bissau (on 12 April 2012, a coup was staged by elements of the armed forces)


11-Liberia - President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Supports ECOWAS intervention[27]

12-Gambia - President Yahya Jammeh


13-Cape Verde – President Jorge Carlos Fonseca


14-Sierra Leone - President Ernest Bai Koroma


15-Togo – President Faure Gnassingbé

Willing to send Togolese soldiers[28]

Niger, which borders with Azawad and fears that the Tuareg population in its north could also rebel against the central government, is pushing for an immediate intervention. As Africa's leading uranium-producing country, Niger (along with the international community) does not want its uranium production to be impacted by Tuareg revolts or terrorism. Niger's pro-intervention position is also influenced by France, which still holds sway over its old colonies.[29]

The Ivory Coast, also a former French colony, likewise shares France's pro-intervention position (especially considering that its president, Alassane Ouattara, partly owes his position to France, who helped oust his predecessor).

However, the Ivory Coast is prevented from sending troops to Azawad, since it is hosting an international peacekeeping force and therefore cannot provide personnel for third countries. The same is true for Liberia. Togo and Nigeria favor an intervention and are to contribute troops for the ECOWAS mission.[30]

Other ECOWAS countries believe that military intervention should occur only if talks fail. ECOWAS top mediator, Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré, likewise favors diplomatic action over military intervention. He recently said: 'War would be the worst solution in Mali. Military intervention is only the last resort, in case dialogue fails... We are all on the same wavelength: political dialogue first, [military] intervention [only] in case of failure.'[31]

Senegal, which is a member of both the ECOWAS and the AU, and is hosting Mali's former president, ATT, supports a military intervention, but it is not willing to send troops[32]. Senegal says it will participate to a lesser degree by sending military engineers and policemen.[33] Cape Verde has agreed only to send some medical personnel.[34]

As for the AU, it is divided on the issue. AU members Algeria and Mauritania, which play an important role in the Azawad crisis, are opposed to a military intervention, each for its own reasons. However, Algeria might change its position in the future due to strong French pressure on it. On October 22, 2012, the French daily Le Monde wrote that, according to "sources" in the French Defense Ministry, Algeria has given its "tacit agreement" to a military intervention in Azawad.[35] South Africa, on the other hand, has agreed to send troops to Azawad. According to reports, Chad, which is well aware of being "courted," has agreed to participate, but intends to carefully negotiate the terms.[36] Morocco, which is neither an ECOWAS nor an AU member, but which is a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and a major player in the region, has stated that it is reluctant to support an intervention.[37]

Senegal President Macky Sall and Mauritania President Mohamed Ould Abdelaziz met September 16, 2012; the meeting focused mainly on the crisis in Azawad. Image: Mauritania Information Agency

Power Struggles In Bamako

Another factor that complicates the issue of intervention in Azawad is the political instability in Bamako and the tension between the international community and Mali's current leader, Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo, who seized power in a March 2012 coup. ECOWAS and the international community – especially France and the U.S. – regard Sanogo as a usurper who illegitimately seized power from Mali's former president, Amadou Toumani Touré (also known as ATT), and as a threat to the political stability of the region.

Mali coup leader Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo. Image source: AP

After the coup, the ECOWAS attempted to marginalize Sanogo, inter alia by supporting the nomination of Dioncounda Traoré as Mali's interim president and by pressuring to form a new unity government, which was indeed established on August 20, 2012.[38] However, Sanogo has managed to remain the strong man in the country, and has appointed his own men to the security-related ministries,[39] while key pro-ECOWAS ministers have been removed from the government.[40] The ministers associated with Sanogo include:[41]

  • Col.-Maj. Yamoussa Camara, Minister of Defense and Veterans Affairs ("colonel-major" is a rank in the Malian Army).

  • Tiéna Coulibaly, Minister of Economy, Finance and Budget.
  • Col. Moussa Coulibaly Sinko, Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization.
  • Gen. Konaté Tiefing, Minister of Safety and Civil Protection.
  • Lt.-Col. Abdoulaye Koumaré, Minister of Transport and Road Infrastructure.

Within the new unity government, different camps are vying for power. In addition to Sanogo, some of the leaders involved in this power struggle are:

  • President Dioncounda Traoré – who has the support of the ECOWAS and is seen as the 'enemy' by Sanogo's supporters. In May 2012, he was beaten by supporters of the coup in the presidential palace in Bamako, and left for Paris to receive medical treatment.[42] He returned to Mali in July 2012.
  • Cheick Modibo Diarra, who has been serving as acting prime minister since April 17, 2012. He is an internationally renowned astrophysicist and former NASA scientist who served as the Africa chairman of Microsoft Corporation. However, he has been accused of incompetence (including by Traoré), and there have been calls for his resignation. Diarra is known to be sympathetic to Mali’s Islamist circles.
  • Mahmoud Dicko is the president of the Malian Islamic High Council (IHC), an organization that is becoming very influential in Mali (see below). Some allege that Diarra has managed to hold on to his position due to support from the IHC.[43] Dicko sympathizes with Azawad-based Islamist groups

The formation of the new unity government entails no new approach to the Azawad situation, since, like its predecessors, this government opposes Azawad's independence and will do anything to prevent secession.

Mali Interim President Dioncounda Traoré.
Image source: Le Monde

The MNLA believes that, considering these chaotic political circumstances in Bamako, the ECOWAS and the international community should support the MNLA's bid to free Azawad of terrorists, instead of opposing it in the name of 'preserving Mali's integrity.' According to the MNLA, the ECOWAS must put this principle aside and join forces with the MNLA, at least until the terrorist problem in Azawad is eliminated. The MNLA maintains that the terrorist problem in Azawad and the crisis in Bamako should be handled separately (see Appendix III).

Divisions in Mali over ECOWAS' Military Intervention

Captain Sanogo and his supporters in Mali are naturally reluctant to allow ECOWAS troops in Bamako and Azawad, for three reasons:

  1. As mentioned, the ECOWAS opposes Sanogo's rule. Hence, an ECOWAS presence in Bamako is seen as a threat to the interests of Sanogo and his allies.
  2. Sanogo sees the presence of ECOWAS troops in Bamako as an infringement upon Mali's national sovereignty[44].
  3. Younouss Hameye Dicko, chairman of the Coordination of Patriotic Organizations in Mali (COPAM), which supports Sanogo, believes that the ECOWAS seeks a federalist solution to the crisis in Azawad, which the COPAM rejects. [45]

Despite their objection, an agreement to deploy ECOWAS troops in Mali was signed on September 25, 2012 following a meeting between President Traoré, Malian Defense Minister Yamoussa Camara (who is a Sanogo loyalist and actually opposes the agreement) and Ivory Coast Defense Minister Paul Koffi. According to the agreement, the ECOWAS force will have its general headquarters in Bamako and will be deployed to Mali in order to coordinate the operations in Azawad.

In reaction to the agreement, hundreds marched in the capital against the ECOWAS intervention, in a demonstration organized by the pro-Sanogo COPAM. This organization holds that the Malian army alone should be responsible for reuniting Mali, and demands the release of arms shipments to Mali that have been blocked in several West African ports, including in Conakry, Guinea.[46]

Demonstration in Bamako against ECOWAS military intervention. Image source:

The COPAM demonstration sparked a counter-demonstration on October 11, 2012, when several thousand people marched in the capital in support of the ECOWAS intervention.

Demonstrators supporting ECOWAS intervention. Image source: AFP.

Arms Shipments To Mali Blocked By ECOWAS

The ECOWAS reportedly blocked an arms shipment to Mali at the Guinean port of Conakry. The shipment, which is alleged to include some 20 BTR-60 armored personnel carriers (APCs),[47] arrived from Bulgaria in late July 2012; the weapons were ordered by former Malian president Amadou Toumani Touré before he was ousted in the March coup. Another shipment, of 1,000 light arms, was blocked by the ECOWAS in the Senegalese port of Dakar in June 2012. According to the Senegalese media outlet Seneweb,[48] the ECOWAS is blocking the Malian weapons in order to weaken Capt. Sanogo and to prevent his junta from arming itself, and also in order to discourage the Malian army from intervening in Azawad on its own – a move that could lend Sanogo popular support.

In any case, a military intervention by the Malian Army is likely to fail, because Malian soldiers are not trained to fight in the harsh desert conditions of Azawad. Moreover, most of them belong to the Bambara tribe, very few of whose members reside in Azawad. Therefore, they have no emotional attachment to this region, as reflected in a saying common among them: An te na sâ tchinchin dron no fe ("we will not die for some dunes").

The main danger in a Malian intervention is that in order to present some sort of success to the Malian public, the Malian army could retaliate against the local Tuareg population (see Appendix III), which has no humanitarian corridor (see Appendix II).

Mali's Connection With Islamist Groups



Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)

Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud (aka. Abdelmalek Droukdel), leader

Mokhtar Belmokhtar[49] (prominent commander in AQIM's Sahara branch, head of the Al-Mulathamin Brigade until October 2012[50])

Yahya Abu Humam (Emir of the Sahara branch)

Ansar Al-Din

Iyad Ag Ghaly, leader[51]

Alghabass Ag Intalla, deputy

Monotheism Movement for Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO)

Hamad Ould Mohamed Khairou[52]

Soultane Ould Bady[53]

Boko Haram

Abu Moussa (commander in Azawad)

It is important to note that Al-Qaeda in the Islamist Maghreb (AQIM) was present in the region prior to the MNLA rebellion against Mali. One of the main MNLA accusations against the Malian government is that Bamako never "fired one bullet"[54] against AQIM and did not act to free Azawad from terrorists, who have been present in the region for 10 years. As the Malian army was incapable of suppressing the MNLA and prevent the partition of Mali, the MNLA leaders actually accuse Mali of complicity with the Islamist groups in Azawad, which would be the only way Bamako could defeat the MNLA and put down any Tuareg rebellion.

Hama Ag Mahmoud, the official in charge of foreign relations and international cooperation for the MNLA-led Transitional Council for the State of Azawad (CTEA),[55] writes the following:[56]

"Most of the observers in the [African] sub-region already know it; it is no secret that the countries of the region are conducting shady relations with the terrorist and mafia groups that have been clamping down on Azawad for years. Mali and certain neighboring countries have contacts with these criminals in Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal, right from the beginning of the MNLA hostilities, following the repeated provocations by the Malian state. Currently, large-scale maneuvers are being openly conducted by certain states, which are entangled in shady relations with the Islamo-narco-terrorists, with the aim of safeguarding and perpetuating their interests in Azawad.

"The current approach of maintaining contact with all the armed groups under the pretext of conducting an all-inclusive dialogue is nothing but an attempt to rehabilitate Ansar Al-Din, whose contacts with and unfailing allegiance to AQIM are well known, in order to allow this organization to involve the other two [organizations, AQIM and MUJAO] which cannot be directly involved.

"There is a need to reiterate that none of these groups, which are increasingly being approached by the mediators, have ever declared war on Mali, nor have they made any clear claims [against it]. They all came in support of Mali, and in the wake of the MNLA offensive suddenly irrupted into Azawad, aiming solely to sabotage the Azawad people's struggle for independence. These obscurantist groups are carrying out the plans of their ill-intentioned mentors, and are allied in the service of Mali."

The Malian Islamic High Council

It is also worth noting that for the first time in its history, Mali has in its new unity government a Ministry of Religious Affairs – a sign of the growing influence of the Malian Islamic High Council (IHT, also known as the Haut Conseil Islamique). Thus, while the world is watching the Islamists in Azawad, the threat of growing Islamism in Bamako goes largely unnoticed.

"The creation of a Religious Affairs Ministry in Mali shows the growing influence of Muslims in politics in the secular nation... 'Religion enters government,' wrote the private [Malian] Indicateur du Renouveau newspaper... The new portfolio will be led by Yacouba Traoré, a member of the country's Islamic High Council (IHC), which has been negotiating with the armed Islamist groups. According to the newspaper, this 'confirms the importance of the religious debate and the rise of Islamism in society,' marking a 'victory for the IHC which has always demanded the creation of this department.'

"...'It is an open secret. The Religious Affairs Ministry is a request from the ICH,' the main Islamic organization in Mali, said sociologist Ali Samake. On August 12, about a week before the president unveiled the new unity government, the ICH held a rally for peace in Bamako which attracted up to 50 000 people."[57]

Islamic High Council president Mahmoud Dicko. Image: Le Matin (Algeria)

The IHC has actually met on several occasions with Islamist movements based in Azawad. In July, the IHC's president the Imam Mahmoud Dicko offered to PM Diarra (whom Dicko is supporting politically) their mediation in order to meet with Ansar Al-Din's leader, Iyad Ag Ghaly.[58] Soon after, he met in Gao with the leader of Ansar Al-Din, and MUJAO leaders. According to the Malian paper L'Aube, Dicko is not hiding his sympathies for the Azawad-based Islamist groups, and takes a position that is "favorable to some of their demands."[59] In July, Ag Ghaly actually expressed friendship for the IHC: "We recognize only one channel of negotiations with Mali, and that is the channel of our brothers from the IHC."[60]

ECOWAS And Burkina Faso Mediation With The MNLA



Bilal Ag Cherif

MNLA secretary-general and CTEA's President

Mahamadou Djeri Maiga

CTEA vice president (he is not a Tuareg, but a Songhai from Azawad)

Nina Walet Intalou

CTEA official in charge of Women's Advancement, Child Care, and Family

Colonel Mohamed Ag Najim

CTEA official in charge of National Defense


Colonel Hassane Ag Fagaga

CTEA official in charge of National Security

Hama Ag Mahmoud

CTEA official in charge of Foreign Relations and International Cooperation

Mossa Ag Attaher

CTEA Coordinator for Diplomatic Action In Europe

Mossa Ag Assarid

CTEA official in charge of Information

ECOWAS's top mediator in the crisis in Azawad, Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaoré, believes that a military intervention should be considered only if political mediation fails. While he rejects Azawad's independence, it is not clear that he would not support its autonomy. [61] He considers that one of the main problems that must be solved in order to end the crisis is the absence of leadership in the Bamako government.

Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaoré. Image: GALLO/GETTY

According to the French magazine Jeune Afrique,[62] President Compaoré is perceived in Bamako as a "solitary knight" who is "unilaterally" promoting dialogue with the MNLA and with the Islamist movement Ansar Al-Din. He said: "There are Malians[63] who asks for independence, and there are Malians who want shari'a law... First of all, we talk to see if we can integrate [their demands] in the Republic, or if we can limit these extreme, and sometimes extremist, demands."[64]

On July 23-24, 2012, the MNLA convened in Burkina Faso's capital, Ouagadougou, in order to review its internal organization. The meeting was held on the initiative of Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibril Bassolé and facilitated by the Swiss federal government. Mossa Ag Attaher, CTEA coordinator for Diplomatic Action In Europe, which praises Burkina Faso's mediation (see Appendix III) stated that the meeting in Ouagadougou had two objectives:

"The first was to allow the MNLA to review its internal organization, to restructure, and to adapt to the new situation regarding matters concerning Azawad and regarding the expectations of the international community. · The second was to allow the creation of a commission for drafting political platforms with a view to [future] negotiation with ECOWAS, the international community, and Mali."

He continued: "I can tell you that these two goals were totally accomplished. By the end of the two-day-meeting, we had reached an understanding about the initiatives to be taken. At the level of its structural and institutional organization, the MNLA took some important decisions for the improvement and adjustment of its activities....

"From now on, the CTEA president will be the basis for the functioning of both the CTEA and the MNLA. At a different level, we created a commission whose task is to draw up the MNLA's political platform... Once this political platform is completed, it will be presented to the CTEA, to the ECOWAS, and to our Swiss partners....

"Many Azawadis and many of our friends are convinced that the MNLA is in Ouagadougou in order to start negotiations with Mali. I completely deny that. Today, Mali is not a state with which we should talk. Today, Mali is a state in total disintegration, a state without an army, with almost no institutions, and whose president is under threat and cannot exercise his powers.

"This is what we told the mediator of the ECOWAS. It is important that the ECOWAS help Mali hold democratic elections, and that it puts some pressure on the Malian political class, which is torn by power struggles. Only when Mali has a legitimate government elected by its people will the MNLA meet with ECOWAS and Mali in order to discuss Azawad's independence."[65]

Burkina Faso, however, is also conducting a dialogue with Ansar Al-Din, which controls Kidal; MUJAO controls Gao. Burkina Faso's President Compaoré is actually convinced of the importance of involving Ansar Al-Din in the talks. Ansar Al-Din is not fighting for the Azawad's independence, but seeks to implement shari'a law in both Azawad and Mali. On August 7, Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibril Bassolé visited Gao and Kidal, where he met with Ansar Al-Din leader Iyad Ag Ghaly, accompanied by MUJAO official Sharif Ould al-Taher and an Ansar Al-Din member who was receiving medical treatment in Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibril Bassolé arrives in Gao. Image:
Azawad News Agency.

Djibril Bassolé escorted by Islamist militants in Gao. Image: Azawad News Agency.

In Kidal. From right: Ansar Al-Din leader Iyad Ag Ghaly, Burkina Faso Foreign Minister
Djibril Bassolé, Moustapha Ould Limam Chafi, personal advisor to Burkina Faso President Compaoré and ECOWAS-appointed mediator in the crisis in Azawad.[66] Acheikh Ag Aoussa, a high ranking Ansar Al-Din member.[67] Image source: Azawad News Agency

In Kidal. From right: Ansar Al-Din leader Iyad Ag Ghaly, Burkina Faso Foreign Minister
Djibril Bassolé, Ansar Al-Din deputy leader Alghabass Ag Intallah. Image source: Azawad News Agency.

In Kidal. On right: Ansar Al-Din leader Iyad Ag Ghaly; on left, Burkina Faso Foreign Minister
Djibril Bassolé.

Burkina Faso President Blaire Compaoré, the top mediator in Mali's crisis, and his delegation meet at the presidential palace in Burkina Faso capital Ouagadougou with the Ansar Al-Din leadership. Next to President Blaire Compaoré, on the right, is Ansar Al-Din deputy
Alghabass Ag Intallah; next to him, Ansar Al-Din strong man and Ag Intallah loyalist Acheikh Ag Aoussa. It should be noted that Ansar Al-Din leader Ayad Ag Ghaly was not present at the meeting in Burkina Faso, as he did not want to leave Azawad for security reasons. Image source: AFP.

Following the meeting between Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibril Bassolé’s and Ansar Al-Din representatives in Azawad, MNLA political bureau member and CTEA foreign affairs official Hama Ag Mahmoud wrote in a communiqué: "What is the point in receiving, discussing with, and negotiating with Islamo-narco-terrorists, who are kidnapping, stoning, and flogging citizens and amputating [their limbs] as well as destroying the achievements that the native population has made over thousands of years? Are these initiatives aimed solely at rendering the Islamo-narco-terrorists more respectable in the eyes of the international community?... It is immoral and shocking, in the dramatic context of the Sahel, to see that the only sympathies and empathies expressed so far, as well as the only logistic support provided so far, are all towards terrorist groups."[68]

The MNLA is a genuine political force, but it is unclear how long it can survive without financial support. Ansar Al-Din, which is much wealthier than the MLNA, is recruiting Tuareg to its own ranks. Hence, there is a danger that some elements in the MNLA will push for an agreement with this Islamist movement, in order to preserve the status quo.

The E.U., NATO, The U.S., And Switzerland

As mentioned previously, France is the main country in Europe pushing for an immediate military intervention. Despite this, it has offered to provide logistical and training support, but not ground troops. According to the French daily Le Monde, France seeks to organize an E.U. military mission to Mali, called the EUTM (European Union Training Mission), whose aim is "to remedy the Malian army's extreme weakness by training 46 battalions within a few months, which would then be able to win back the north of the country... The mission is to involve several hundred European trainers, which Paris hopes to dispatch to Bamako in the near future." [69] On October 15, 2012, the E.U. indeed announced it would prepare a plan for a military training mission to help Mali's army regain control of Azawad.[70] According to Radio France International, on October 22, a group of European experts went to Bamako for a week to assess the weaknesses of the Malian army and ways of upgrading it.[71]

Following an October 1, 2012 meeting in Müllheim, Germany, between the German ministers of defense and foreign affairs and their French counterparts, Germany promised to provide logistical support for the proposed ECOWAS mission to Mali. In the meantime, according to the AP, France plans to move two surveillance drones to western Africa from Afghanistan by the end of the year. France is also reported to have special forces in the region around Mali, and to have contracted out surveillance of Mali to a private company.[72] According to Le Monde, France is allegedly promoting a plan, to be launched in January 2013, aimed at strengthening the government in Bamako and at training three or four battalions of African soldiers for fighting in Azawad. The plan would involve bombarding the area.[73] NATO, on the other hand, has no intention of intervening, according to a statement made by its secretary-general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in an October, 1, 2012 press conference in Brussels.[74]

As for the U.S., its assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Johnnie Carson, said that Mali's military should accept an ECOWAS’ intervention force.[75] However, as mentioned, the U.S. does not plan to send any ground troops. On October 22, top-level American and French military leaders and diplomats and representatives of the African Union, ECOWAS, the E.U. and the U.N. met in Paris to discuss intelligence-gathering and security in the Sahel region.[76] The most notable presences at the meeting were Johnnie Carson, U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs, and Army Maj.-Gen. Charles Hooper, U.S. Africa Command's director of strategy, plans and programs.

Switzerland, following its tradition of neutrality, promotes dialogue. As mentioned, on July 23-24, 2012, the MNLA met in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, to review its internal organization. The meeting was facilitated by the Swiss federal government.

Disagreement Within The MNLA: Independence or Autonomy?

Following the October 7 meeting in Ouagadougou, the MNLA leadership presented its demands. It stressed its refusal to give up Azawad's right to self-determination and independence. It should be mentioned CTEA official Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh said to the media that the MNLA is fighting for self-determination, and "self-determination doesn't [necessarily] mean independence [i.e. the movement might settle for autonomy]."[77] According to the leading Tuareg media outlet Toumast Press, a minority within the movement is willing to settle for autonomy.[78] There are also rumors that the MNLA is willing to accept a federation as an interim solution of period of 3-5 years, which will be followed by a renewed bid for independence. In a June 30, 2012 interview, MNLA Coordinator for Diplomatic Action in Europe Mossa Ag Attaher said: "Azawad's independence is irrevocable... It is a fact... We would like to reassure the public in Azawad, as well as Azawad's friends and supporters, that the sole objective of our struggle is to allow the people of Azawad to take their destiny into their own hands and to have their own administration and justice [systems]. Whoever does not share this objective has no place within the MNLA…"[79]. Though poor, and rendered even poorer by Mali's neglect and mismanagement, the state of Azawad is actually economically viable (see Appendix IV).


One of the goals of ECOWAS's mission is to fight the Islamist and terrorist groups in Azawad (AQIM, MUJAO, Ansar Al-Din and Boko Haram). However, 3,300 troops seem inadequate for this purpose, especially considering that Ansar Al-Din alone has around 10,000 fighters at the moment. Furthermore, the ECOWAS forces are used to fighting in the "bush" and not in the desert. The MNLA, on the other hand, is both willing and able to fight the Islamist movements, and, with financial and logistical support, could also recruit Tuareg fighters from neighboring countries. It is true that since the June 27, 2012 battle of Gao,[80] the MNLA has lost some ground. However, it remains an important player in Azawad, as acknowledged by Burkina Faso and Switzerland, which are maintaining dialogue with it.

In light of this, it is unfortunate that the international community apparently has no interest in strengthening the MNLA, but rather in weakening and marginalizing it. (The UN resolution, apparently drafted mainly by France, does not even mention the MNLA). The main goal of the ECOWAS and the international community is apparently to unify Mali and reach an agreement with the Islamist movements, primarily with Ansar Al-Din.

If a military intervention – especially one that does not involve the MNLA – does take place, the ECOWAS may achieve the reunification of Mali, but terrorism is unlikely to be defeated, even if some sort of arrangement is reached with the terrorists. Even if AQIM agrees to retreat to the mountainous desert regions of Azawad, it will most likely continue to conduct drug trafficking and kidnappings. Also, the reunification of the country is unlikely to convince Capt. Sanogo to ally himself with the ECOWAS, or to resolve the complicated and conflicted situation that prevails in the Malian capital.

APPENDIX I: UN Security Council Resolution 2071, October 12, 2012[81]

Adopting Resolution 2071 (2012), Security Council Demands That Armed Groups Cease Human Rights Abuses, Humanitarian Violations In Northern Mali, States Readiness to Consider Requests for International Military Force

With the humanitarian crisis in Mali deteriorating rapidly, the Security Council today adopted a resolution demanding that all armed groups cease human rights abuses and violations of humanitarian law, including targeted attacks against civilians, sexual violence, the recruitment of child soldiers and forced displacements.

Unanimously adopting resolution 2071 (2012), the 15-member body declared its readiness to respond to Mali's request for an international military force, pending receipt of the Secretary-General's report and recommendations on the situation. It also took note of the country's requests to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for military assistance, and requested the Secretary-General immediately to provide military and security planners to assist joint ECOWAS and African Union planning efforts.

The Council expressed its grave concern over the consequences of instability in northern Mali on the region and beyond, the continuing deterioration of the security and humanitarian situations and the increasing entrenchment of terrorist elements, including Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, affiliated and other extremist groups. It called upon Malian rebel groups to severe all ties to terrorist organizations, notably Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, and expressed its readiness to impose targeted sanctions on those that failed to do so.

It also called upon Member States, regional and international organizations to provide coordination support to regional and international preparation efforts, including through military training and the provision of equipment and other assistance in efforts to combat terrorist and affiliated extremist groups, and to provide assistance to Mali's armed and security forces as soon as possible in order to restore the State's authority over its entire national territory.

Following the Council's action, Mali's representative said: "We dare to hope that the results of this meeting will strengthen efforts already under way," and noted that a decisive phase had been completed, following recent key developments that had seen the installation of a National Unity Government to manage the crisis in the north and plans to hold elections. The resolution's unanimous adoption was another important phase, he said, underscoring the importance and urgent need to deploy an international force in support of efforts by Mali's security forces to restore the country's territorial integrity and restore human rights in the occupied north. He reaffirmed his country's full willingness to cooperate with the Security Council, the ECOWAS, the African Union, and the European Union in implementing the resolution.

Speaking on behalf of ECOWAS, the Ivory Coast representative expressed concern over the rapid deterioration in the north, as Malians fled the country and suffered internal displacement. The international community should not allow the situation to fester, he emphasized. Current mediation efforts led by the President of Burkina Faso deserved international support, he added, saying that a negotiated political solution and democratic elections would go "hand-in-hand" in restoring Mali's territorial integrity. "The clock is ticking and every day that passes brings more suffering to the people trapped by the terrorists," he said. "The resolution is timely and opens the door to the next resolution for action. Inaction is no longer an option."

The meeting began at 3:11 p.m. and ended at 3:34 p.m.


The full text of resolution 2071 (2012) reads as follows:

"The Security Council,

"Recalling its resolution 2056 (2012), its presidential statements of 26 March 2012 (S/PRST/2012/7), 4 April 2012 (S/PRST/2012/9) as well as its press statements on Mali and the Sahel of 22 March 2012, 9 April 2012, 18 June 2012, 10 August 2012 and 21 September 2012,

"Reaffirming its strong commitment to the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Mali,

"Reiterating its serious concern about the insecurity and rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Sahel region, which is further complicated by the presence of armed and terrorist groups and their activities, as well as by the proliferation of weapons, from within and outside the region, and expressing its grave concern about the consequences of instability in the north of Mali on the region and beyond, and stressing the need to respond swiftly in order to preserve stability across the Sahel region,

"Reiterating its grave concern about the continuing deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation in the north of Mali, the increasing entrenchment of terrorist elements including Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), affiliated groups and other extremist groups, and its consequences for the countries of the Sahel and beyond,

"Stressing the primary responsibility of the Malian authorities for ensuring the security and unity in its territory and protecting its civilians with respect for international humanitarian law, the rule of law and human rights and emphasizing that any sustainable solution to the crisis in Mali should be Malian-led,

"Expressing serious concerns about criminal groups activities in the north of Mali and recognizing the urgent need for enhanced cooperation and coordination between the Malian authorities, neighboring countries and countries of the region, in collaboration with relevant United Nations entities, regional and international organizations as well as bilateral partners, in order to tackle transnational organized crime, including illicit activities such as drug trafficking,

"Encouraging the international community to provide support to resolve the crisis in Mali through coordinated actions for immediate and long-term needs, encompassing security, development and humanitarian issues,

"Taking note of the letter of the Transitional authorities of Mali dated 1 September 2012 to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) requesting military assistance to reorganize the Armed Forces of Mali and restore the territorial integrity of Mali, of which the north is occupied by terrorist groups, and combat terrorism,

"Taking note of the letter of the Transitional authorities of Mali dated 23 September 2012 to ECOWAS on the conditions for the deployment of ECOWAS troops in Mali and underscoring the importance of addressing the actions outlined therein,

"Taking note of the letter of the Transitional authorities of Mali dated 18 September 2012 addressed to the Secretary-General, requesting the authorization of deployment through a Security Council resolution of an international military force to assist the Armed Forces of Mali acting under Chapter VII as provided by the United Nations Charter, to recover the occupied regions in the north of Mali;

"Taking note of the ECOWAS letter of 28 September 2012 addressed to the Secretary-General requesting a Security Council resolution authorizing the deployment of a stabilization force in Mali under a Chapter VII mandate of the United Nations Charter and further taking note of the ECOWAS letter of 28 September 2012 addressed to the African Union to engage with the African Union on fine-tuning the concept, modalities, and means of the deployment of a stabilization force in Mali,

"Recognizing the efforts and the leadership of ECOWAS, in coordination with the African Union, on the Malian crisis, as well as the important role played by the United Nations, other regional and international organizations, neighboring states, countries of the region and bilateral partners in the resolution of the crisis in Mali, and in this regard calling for continued coordination,

"Looking forward to the meeting of the Support and Follow-up Group on Mali, convened by the African Union in consultation with the United Nations and ECOWAS, in Bamako on 19 October 2012, which aims to clarify the modalities of international support to the Malian Transitional authorities in solving the crisis in the north of Mali,

"Condemning strongly the abuses of human rights committed in the north of Mali by armed rebels, terrorist and other extremist groups, including violence against its civilians, notably women and children, killings, hostage-taking, pillaging, theft, destruction of cultural and religious sites and recruitment of child soldiers, stressing that some of such acts may amount to crimes under the Rome Statute and that their perpetrators must be held accountable and noting that the Transitional authorities of Mali referred the situation in the north of Mali since January 2012 to the International Criminal Court on 18 July 2012,

"Acknowledging the steps taken by Mali, including by the signing on 6 April 2012 of a Framework Agreement under the auspices of ECOWAS, towards developing a road map for the restoration of constitutional order, an inclusive national dialogue and the organization of free, transparent, and fair presidential elections within twelve months of the signing of the Framework Agreement,

"Determining that the situation in Mali constitutes a threat to international peace and security,

"Acting under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations,

"1. Welcomes the appointment of a Government of National Unity in Mali, expresses its support to the work of the Interim president of Mali, Dioncounda Traoré and urges the Transitional authorities in Mali to present a detailed road map for transition with concrete steps and timelines and to accelerate efforts towards the strengthening of democratic institutions and the restoration of constitutional order in the Republic of Mali through the holding of timely, peaceful, inclusive and credible elections by the end of the transition;

"2. Reiterates its demand that no member of the Malian Armed Forces should interfere in the work of the Transitional authorities, takes note of the decisions and recommendation by ECOWAS to adopt targeted sanctions in Mali and expresses its readiness to consider appropriate measures as necessary;

"3. Calls upon Malian rebel groups to cut off all ties to terrorist organizations, notably AQIM and affiliated groups, and expresses its readiness to adopt targeted sanctions against those rebel groups who do not cut off all ties to terrorist organizations, including AQIM and affiliated groups, recalls paragraphs 20 and 24 of resolution 2056 (2012) and further decides that the 1267/1989 Committee shall take decisions on requests of Member States to add to the Al-Qaida sanctions list names of individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities in Mali that are associated with Al-Qaida, in accordance with resolutions 1267 (1999) and 1989 (2011);

"4. Urges the Transitional authorities of Mali, the Malian rebel groups and legitimate representatives of the local population in the north of Mali, to engage, as soon as possible, in a credible negotiation process in order to seek a sustainable political solution, mindful of the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Mali and requests the Secretary-General, as well as neighboring countries, countries of the region, international and regional organizations and other bilateral partners, to support this Malian political process;

"5. Demands that all groups in the north of Mali cease all abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law, including targeted attacks against the civilian population, sexual violence, recruitments of child soldiers and forced displacements, and recalls in this regard all its relevant resolutions on Women, Peace and Security, on Children and armed conflicts and on Protection of civilians in armed conflicts;

"6. Declares its readiness, upon receiving the Secretary-General's report referred to in paragraph 7 below, to respond to the request of the Transitional authorities of Mali regarding an international military force assisting the Malian Armed Forces in recovering the occupied regions in the north of Mali;

"7. Requests the Secretary-General to immediately provide military and security planners to assist ECOWAS and the African Union, in close consultation with Mali, the neighboring countries of Mali, countries of the region and all other interested bilateral partners and international organizations, in the joint planning efforts to respond to the request of the Transitional authorities of Mali for such an international military force, and further requests the Secretary-General, in close consultation with the above-mentioned partners, to submit, no later than forty-five days after the adoption of this resolution, a written report on the implementation of this resolution, including support provided under paragraph 4 and this paragraph, and detailed and actionable recommendations to respond to the request of the Transitional authorities of Mali regarding an international military force, including means and modalities of the envisaged deployment, in particular the concept of operations, force generation capabilities strength and support financial costs;

"8. Calls upon the Transitional authorities of Mali to take immediately all the appropriate measures to facilitate the regional and international preparation efforts taken in relation with the objective outlined in paragraph 6 above, calls upon Member States, regional and international organizations, to provide coordinated support to these regional and international preparation efforts, including through military training, provision of equipment and other forms of assistance in efforts to combat terrorist and affiliated extremist groups, and further invites those Member States and organizations to inform the Secretary-General of their contributions;

"9. Calls upon, in this context, Member States, regional and international organizations, including the African Union and the European Union, to provide as soon as possible coordinated assistance, expertise, training and capacity-building support to the Armed and Security Forces of Mali, consistent with their domestic requirements, in order to restore the authority of the State of Mali over its entire national territory, to uphold the unity and territorial integrity of Mali and to reduce the threat posed by AQIM and affiliated groups;

"10. Welcomes the appointment by the Secretary-General of a Special Envoy for the Sahel, who should mobilize international efforts for the Sahel, coordinate the implementation of the United Nations integrated strategy on the Sahel and engage actively in defining the parameters of a comprehensive solution to the Malian crisis;

"11. Decides to remain actively seized of the matter.

APPENDIX II: Article By CTEA Director Of Information and Communication

Attaye Ag Mohamed, the official in charge of the CTEA's Information and Communication Department, wrote in an article titled "The MNLA Won't Fight The Wrong Battle And Will Stay True To Itself," published September 30, 2012 by Toumast Press:

Mali's High Islamic Council Is being Blackmailed By Islamists

"While welcoming the growing interest that the international community is lately devoting to Azawad, it is also important to draw the attention of the world once again to how dramatically the situation might evolve if [the international community takes] decisions in the wrong time and without consultation. […]

Attaye Ag Mohamed. Image: Toumast Press

"The population of Azawad, weakened and held hostage in its own cities by extremist [Islamist] movements, has no humanitarian corridor to relay on...

"The Malian High Islamic Council (HIC) [wants] to appear as the major mediator between the Malian government and the Islamists. [However, it] is being blackmailed by extremist [Islamist] movements that want access to 'donations.' In other words, these 'donations' coming from Mali's capital, Bamako, under HIC oversight are accessible only to district chieftains, imams or notables who have sworn allegiance to the cities' rulers [i.e. to the Islamists]. [Moreover,] it should also be noted that the majority of the population of Azawad, which doesn't live in the cities... does not benefit from any aid program.

"The MNLA, [on the other hand,] was attacked by the international community when it attempted rapprochement with [the Islamist movement] Ansar Al-Din, [even though it insisted] on the condition that the latter cut ties with terrorist movements, adhere to the Azawad declaration of independence... and show good faith (i.e. condemn terrorism, kidnappings and abandon the idea of imposing shari'a law)...."

Mali Is Trying "To Concoct Peace" With The Islamists

"The reluctance of neighboring countries, such as Mauritania, Algeria and Senegal, to [undertake] an immediate [military] operation [in Azawad] merits examination. Although ECOWAS and the international community are aiming to reestablish a legal [leadership] in Mali [after the coup], a military intervention in Azawad is unlikely to foster a return to normality in Bamako. The power, or rather 'powers,' in Bamako are sinking deeper and deeper into their conflicts, which are an obstacle to peace and stability in the [West African] sub-region... [Furthermore,] the principle of 'preserving Mali's integrity,' which France insists on defending... might affect the stability of the whole of Africa...

"It is mistaken to believe that allowing Mali to 'concoct a peace' with fundamentalist and extremist movements under the pretext of 'national unity'... might transform the MNLA's campaign [for independence] in any way. The MNLA considers its present mission is a generations-long duty...

"Peace cannot be 'concocted'; it must be accomplished through a just, equitable and sound process..."

APPENDIX III: Open Letter To UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon By CTEA Coordinator Of Diplomatic Activity In Europe

The following is an open letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon penned by Mossa Ag Attaher, the CTEA coordinator of diplomatic activity in Europe. The letter was published by Toumast Press on September 26, 2012:

It Is An Illusion To Seek A Solution To The Conflict Without the MNLA's Direct Involvement

"As you [Ban Ki-Moon] prepare to chair a special meeting on the crisis in the Sahel...[82] I have the honor of bringing to your attention the following points, with the intent of better informing the Security Council and the honorable members of the working group about the Sahelian crisis.

Mossa Ag Attaher. Image: France 24.

"1. The Sahelian crisis, as you [Ban Ki-Moon] often have observed, does not receive the attention it deserves. It is generally forgotten, because all the attention is being devoted to the Syrian crisis. However, the MNLA and the CTEA rejoice at the renewed attention that the international community is now devoting to it in the framework of the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York, with particular reference to the dramatic situation experienced by the population of Azawad.

"2. While praising the lucidity and vision of Burkina Faso President Blaise Campaoré, who constantly insists on the necessity of giving priority to dialogue, the MNLA underlines the fact that, without open and direct involvement of the MNLA in [resolving] the crisis, it is an allusion to seek a definite solution to this conflict and a durable peace, as well as the eradication of the Islamo-narco-terrorist curse in the Sahel and in Azawad.

"3. If the ECOWAS and the international community aim to reestablish a lawful power in Bamako, it is very unlikely that the return to constitutional and political normalcy in Bamako will come about by means of a military intervention [in Azawad]. The power, or various powers, in Bamako are sunk in daily conflict which is harming regional peace and stability. This is the main priority."

"The Malian Army Will Attack The Tuareg And Moor Civil Population"

"4. If the ECOWAS and its partners ignore the MNLA, they will risk exposing the civil populations in Azawad to great danger. The Malian army – whose irresponsibility is a known fact – and the [Malian] militias[83] - which will not pass up an opportunity to join the proposed military intervention – will certainly attack the Tuareg and Moor civil populations [in Azawad]...

"5. Why do the international community and the ECOWAS continue to distrust the MNLA in seeking a final solution to the conflict? The MNLA [is] the only credible and inevitable ally in the fight against the obscurantist forces [i.e. the Islamists], which have been rooted in Azawad for almost 15 years.

"6. Lastly, even though the MNLA deems that any form of military intervention in Azawad that does not recognize [the MNLA] presence is hostile to [the MNLA], we nevertheless would like to reassure the population of Azawad... the ECOWAS, and the international community that the negative attitude of the ECOWAS and of its partners towards [the MNLA] will in no case induce [the MNLA] to form unnatural alliances [with the Islamists] – because this would be in sharp contrast to our philosophy, our vision and our approach."

APPENDIX IV: The Economy Of Azawad

Though poor, and rendered even poorer by Mali's neglect and mismanagement, the state of Azawad is economically viable. The following is a brief overview of the region's resources:

Mineral Wealth:

Azawad has been reported to contain mineral wealth, including oil and uranium, and several foreign countries have invested in exploring for these resources in the region. According to the Australian mining company Oklo Uranium Limited, there are widespread elevated uranium levels in the northeastern Kidal region and numerous uranium targets in an area covering 19,930 square kilometers. The uranium potential in the Samit deposit, in Gao, alone is believed to be 200 tons. The region is rich in mineral deposits and economically important metals.

Ansongo (town in the Gao region)
Fafa: Other lead-zinc occurrences are 40 km to the southeast of Ansongo.
Ouatagouna-Labbézanga: Copper mineralization is located 140 km southeast of Ansongo.
Tassiga: 30 km to the southeast of Ansongo, the deposit has a magnesite reserve.
Tondibi Agaula and Ofalikin: Manganese mineralization occurs 20 km and 60 km to the southeast and southwest of Ansongo.

Tessalit (town in the Kidal region)
In Darset: 30 km south of Tessalit, with estimated reserve of 4 tons of gold.
Tessalit: Lead-zinc mineralization has been identified 10 km north
Timetrine: Rare earth minerals can be found 80 km west of Tessalit.

Tilemsi (town in the Timbuktu region)
Samit: Uranium mineralization is 120 km northeast of Gao.
Tamaguilelt: A phosphate deposit is located 80 km northeast of the city of Bourem with a production of 18,000 tons.

The following precious stones can be found in:

L'Adrar des Ifoghas (in the Kidal region): pegmatite and metamorphosing minerals.
Le Gourma (in the Gao region): garnet and corindon.
Hombori Douentza Zone (Douentza Cercle, former Malian Mopti region): quartz and carbonates.

Other mineral resources:
Rock Salt: Estimated potential of 53 million tons in Taoudenni (Timbuktu region).
Diatomite: Estimated potential of 65 million tons in Daouna Behri (Timbuktu region).
Lignite: Potential estimated at 1.3 million tons, indications found in Bourem (Gao region)"
Bitumen schist: Potential estimated at 870 million tons, indications found in Agamor and Almoustrat (Gao region).
Kaolin: Potential reserves located in Gao.
Copper: indications found in Ouatagouna (Gao region).
Gypsum: indications found in Taoudenit (a remote salt mining center in the desert. Timbuktu region).
Calcarous rock deposits: found in Bah El Heri (North of Goundam, Timbuktu region).

Azawad's Petroleum Potential

Exploration for oil and gas started in the Azawad area in 2005. There is particular interest in the Taoudeni basin, the Gao Graben, the Tamesna basin and the Nara Trough.

The Taoudeni basin, the Gao Graben, the Tamesna basin and the Nara Trough. Image:

As stated, the northern part of the country is largely non-arable. Agriculture is more developed along the Niger River, though the country has a whole has suffered from drought and increasing desertification.

Sheep, goats, and camels are raised.

The Niger River is an important source of fish; however, due to drought and diversion of river water for agriculture, fish production is declining.

With fascinating sites like the ancient city of Timbuktu, as well as unique wildlife and landscapes, Azawad has tourism potential that goes unrealized due to the political and security instability in the region. Moreover, Islamist terrorist organizations are engaged in vandalizing and destroying the country's historical heritage.

APPENDIX V: Members Of Transitional Council Of The State Of Azawad (CTEA)[84]

CTEA members. Image source:



Bilal Ag Cherif



Mahamadou Djeri Maiga


Secretary of the Presidency

Mahmoud Ag Aghali


Chargé of Foreign Relations and of International Cooperation

S.E. Hama Ag Mahmoud


Chargé of National Defense

Colonel Mohamed Ag Najim


Chargé of the Administration of the Territory

Alla Ag Elmehdi


Chargé of National Security

Colonel Hassane Ag Fagaga


Chargé of Economy and Finances

Altanata Ag Ebalagh


Chargé of Information

Mossa Ag Assarid


Chargé of Justice

Saïd Ben Bella


Chargé of Trade and Transport

Bilal Ag Ousmane


Chargé of Orientation and of Islamic Teaching

Abdallah Ag Albackaye


Chargé of Mines, Energy and Water

Ahmed Mohamed Ag Guidi


Chargé of Communications and New Technologies

Mohamed Lamine Ould Ahmed


Chargé of Diaspora Affairs, Human Rights and Humanitarian Activities

Ibrahim Ag Mohamed Assaleh


Chargé of Health and Social Affairs

Habitika Ag Assamado


Chargé of Education

Monsieur Abdoulkarim Ag Matafa


Chargé of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries

Ghabdi Ag Mohamed Ibrahim


Chargé of Social Cohesion, Conflict Resolution

Mohamed Ousmane Ag Mohamedoune


Chargé of Youth and Sports

Mohamed Zeyni Aguissa Maiga


Chargé of Culture, Industry and Tourism

Alwadeghat Ag Sakatou[85]


Chargé of Environment

Baye Ag Dicknane


Chargé of Women Advancement, of Child Care and Family Affairs

Nina Wallet Intalou


Chargé of Public Estate management, Land Tenure and Urban Affairs

Akli Iknane Ag Souleymane


Chargé of Public Employment and Training

Abdoulaye Seydou Dicko


Chargé of Veterans, Martyrs and War Victims

Youssouf Ag Acheick


Chargé of Planning and Statistics

Assarid Ag Mohamed



Hama Ag Sidahmed


Coordinator of diplomatic activity in Europe

Mossa Ag Attaher


*Anna Mahjar-Barducci is Research Fellow for North African Studies at MEMRI.


[1] The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is a regional group of 15 West African countries founded in 1975. Its current chairman is the Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara. (ECOWAS website:

[2] The force, called Force en attente de la CEDEAO, is officially meant to be available for action in any ECOWAS country. However, it is not certain whether 3,000 troops are actually available, because many ECOWAS countries have internal problems and cannot provide troops.

[3] AFP, September 17, 2012.

[5], October 12, 2012.

[6] The Botswana Gazette, October 13, 2012.

[7] In 2008, Prodi served as chairman of the United Nations-African Union high-level panel for peacekeeping in Africa.

[9], October 19, 2012

[10], October 12, 2012

[11] Army Times (U.S.), September 27, 2012.

[12] Army Times (U.S.), September 27, 2012.

[13] Echorouk (Algeria), June 25, 2012.

[14], September 26, 2012.

[15], August 1, 2012

[16] AFP, October 13, 2012

[17] L'independent (Togo), October 9, 2012

[18], October 16, 2012

[19] In September, South Africa's president told France 24, "If there [is] a UN decision [supporting military intervention in Mali], I don't think... we will have difficulty to join other forces to be part of the forces that will solve that problem.", September 28, 2012.

[20] Jeune Afrique (France), October 5, 2012

[21], September 27, 2012

[22] Senegalese Press Agency, October 14, 2012

[23], October 2, 2012

[24] Africa Times News, May 31, 2012

[25], September 5, 2012

[26], October 15, 2012

[27], September 27, 2012

[28] Ibid.

[29] La Croix (France), October 16, 2012

[30], October 2, 2012

[31], October 5, 2012

[32] L’Expression (Algeria), September 18, 2012

[33], October 2, 2012

[34], October 2, 2012

[35] Le Monde (France), October 22, 2012

[36], October 2, 2012

[37], August 1, 2012

[38] The ECOWAS warned Bamako it would be expelled from the union unless it formed a national unity government by July 31 that would be able to retake the north. The ultimatum was later extended. AFP, August 20, 2012.

[39] Officially, Sanogo has no power to appoint ministers, but he pressured Dioncounda Traoré to appoint his men.

[40] The new Malian government consists of 31 ministers. L’Essor (Mali), August 22, 2012

[41], 21, 2012

[43] AFP, August 23, 2012

[44] Le MatinDZ (Algeria), August 16, 2012

[45] Global Times (China), 25 September, 2012

[46] Premium Times (Nigeria), September 25, 2012

[47] Reuters, September 6, 2012

[48], July 16, 2012

[49] Mokhtar Belmokhtar is a former Algerian soldier with experience in training camps in Afghanistan. Belmokhtar was reported killed during a battle with the MNLA in Gao, but was later found to have been merely wounded. See:

[50] According to media outlets, Belmokhtar was removed from the leadership of the katiba he leads by AQIM leaders. See: .

[51]Iyad Ag Ghaly (also spelled Iyad Ag Ghali) is the founder and leader of the Islamist movement Ansar Al-Din. Before becoming an Islamist, he was the leader of the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MPLA), and in June 1990 he directed several attacks against the Malian army. In 1991, he signed an agreement with the Malian army which sparked controversy within the MPLA and caused it to split. Ag Ghaly remained the leader of one of the four splinter groups, though he was rumored to have ties with the Malian government and the Algerian military intelligence. In 2006, he was involved in the 2006 Tuareg uprising against the Malian Army. Despite this, in 2007 he became a consular advisor to the Malian consul in Saudi Arabia. Ag Ghaly reportedly became religious under the influence of Pakistani preachers from the Tablighi Jamaat movement, who were present in Kidal in the late 1990s and early 2000s. (Though known to have pacifist views, Tabligh Jamaat has been linked to numerous terrorism investigations). In 2011, he offered himself for the position of secretary-general of the MNLA, but was rejected. He then proposed himself as political head of the Ifoghas tribe, but was again unsuccessful. In late 2011 he founded the Islamist movement Ansar Al-Din. See

[53] Agence Nouakchott d'Information (Mauritania), March 3, 2012

[54], May 30, 2012;

[55] The MNLA established the 28-member Transitional Council of the State of Azawad on June 7, 2012, three months after Azawad declared independence.

[56], August 9, 2012

[57] AFP, August 23, 2012

[58], July 4, 2012

[59], August 2, 2012

[60] AFP, August 23, 2012

[61], October 10, 2012

[62], September 19, 2012

[63] Since he doesn't recognize Azawad's independence, Burkina Faso President Compaoré refers to people residing in Mali as Malians rather than as Azawadis.

[64], September 19, 2012

[66] Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz denounced as outrageous an arrest warrant issued against him for supporting terror groups. RNL (Netherlands), December 30, 2011

[67] Ag Aoussa is loyal to to Ansar Al-Din's deputy leader Alghabass Ag Intallah.

[68], August 9, 2012

[69] Le Monde (France), October 3, 2012

[70] Reuters, October 15, 2012

[71], October 23, 2012

[72] AP, October 22, 2012

[73] Le Monde (France), October 22, 2012


[75] VOA (U.S.), October 1, 2012

[76] AP, October 22, 2012

[77], October 8, 2012

[78], October 8, 2012

[79] For more excerpts from the interview, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 4887, MNLA Coordinator For Diplomatic Action In Europe Mossa Ag Attaher: Secularism Is The Foundation Of Our Combat In Azawad, August 16, 2012.

[80] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis Series Report No. 854, The Fight For A Secular State Of Azawad – Part II: Fighting Terror In The Sahel, July 5, 2012

[82] On September 26, 2012, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for urgent international support for the people and governments of West Africa's Sahel region, warning that the area is at a critical juncture with 18 million people affected by a severe food crisis. See: .

[83] The Patriotic Malian Movement Ganda Koy, better known simply as Ganda Koy (also spelled Gandakoy), meaning "Masters of the Land," was established in the 1990s to fight the Tuareg in their uprising in Azawad. Ganda Koy was founded by Soumeylou Boubeye Maïga, former head of Mali State Security and a former minister. The movement is lead by the charismatic Imam Mohammed n'Tissa Maiga.

[84] Official MNLA website, June 9, 2012

[85] Alwadeghat Ag Sakatou recently replaced Aroudeyni Ag Hamatou in this role.

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