Tuareg rebels in Mali have declared their own independent state after declaring an end to hostilities
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad – the name of the territory they claim as their own – extends as far as Kidal, Gao et Timbuktu.
So far the international community has refused to recognise the Tuareg-speaking region.
Could the West African country be heading for a split if Mali’s military cannot continue the fight in the volatile north.
To discuss the future of crisis-hit Mali, euronews talked to journalist and writer Antoine Glaser who has written several books about the continent and, for nearly 30 years, has run the West African Newsletter, which specialises in African issues.
François Chignac, euronews: “The first question is simple: does the scenario of the country splitting up seem plausible to you?”
Antoine Glaser: “Unfortunately, that can’t be ruled out. You could quite easily imagine that the Tuaregs from the Azawad area believe that they, too, can claim their independence, and that is what is happening. And you have got countries like France, for that matter…where Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has already talked about granting autonomy to Azawad. You can see it is an idea that is really in people’s heads now, even in the international community.”
euronews: “Precisely, the international community. The Security Council is upfront about its concern. In your view, is there a jihadist risk in the region?”
Antoine Glaser: “There is a jihadist risk. For several years now, there have been kidnappings, hostage-takings. Six French citizens are currently being held hostage by al Qaeda’s North African wing, allied to the much-talked-about Ansar Dine Islamist group that we have seen in Timbuktu.
“But we shouldn’t overestimate the strength of al Qaeda’s North African wing. When we talk about jihadism, it is much more to do with destabilising this region through smuggling.”
euronews: “Are we heading towards an Afghan scenario in this part of the world?”
Antoine Glaser: “No one wants to say so outright, but it is, nevertheless, the fall of Colonel Gaddafi – no one misses him – but it is the fall of Colonel Gaddafi – something of the godfather of the region, who financed its countries – which has destabilised all these nations from Mauritania to Chad. I don’t think we are headed towards an Afghan scenario at all. But I fear this region will be unstable for several years, with lawless areas.”
euronews: “Is there a risk of neighbouring countries being destabilised? I am thinking of Burkina Faso, Niger, Senegal, Mauritania?”
Antoine Glaser: “The main destabilisation is happening now, with 200,000 of Mali’s people who have left for Niger or Burkina Faso, for countries that are extremely poor. You have got a food situation that nobody talks about because we are under the impression that it is recurrent, but it remains a real humanitarian problem throughout this region. And I think there could be destabilisation in countries like Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.
euronews: “Is Algeria going to let an independent state set up on its borders?”
Antoine Glaser: “Algeria is sort of the hidden element that no-one is talking about. Algeria does not want to see foreign troops in the south, in neighbouring countries. Algeria has clearly seen columns of highly-armed Tuaregs cross from Libya to Mali. Algeria has done nothing. In reality, Algeria has rid itself of this problem. You have to realise that all the people from al Qaeda’s North African wing are Algerians.
“Actually, our impression is that their problem has shifted to countries in the Sahel region and Algeria is not mentioning it anymore. We are not hearing Algeria and that is rather worrying.”