Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - Dismissing the declaration of independence of Azawad by Malian rebels, the African Union (AU) Friday said the action was an “inconsequential” decision by a terrorist group and called on the international community to rally behind it.
The AU said West African neighbours should immediately launch a military operation against the militia group in northern Mali.
AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping said in a statement here that the ‘intangibility” of Africa’s colonial borders was beyond any groups and pledged that the AU would continue its efforts to ensure that Mali's territorial integrity was maintained at all costs.
“Ping expresses AU’s total rejection of the statement made by the armed group, the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA), regarding the so-called independence of Azawad,” the AU said.
ECOWAS should take concrete steps to protect the unity and territorial integrity of Mali, including through the deployment of its standby regional brigade, the Statement quoted Ping as saying..
“He (Ping) strongly condemns this announcement, which is null and void and of no value whatsoever. He calls on the international community as a whole to fully support this principled position of Africa,” the AU statement added.
Mali has been thrown into crisis since 17 January when the Tuareg rebels launched a bloody attack on Menaka in northern Mali.
The Tuareg rebels who seized the northern part of Mali on Friday proclaimed independence for what they called the ''State of Azawad'' and sought an immediate recognition from the international community.
The rebels, under the aegis of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (known by the French acronym MNLA), said in a declaration posted on their official website (www.mnlamov.net), that they affirm the commitment of the MNLA to creating conditions for lasting peace, and to initiate the institutional foundations of the state based on a democratic constitution for independent Azawad.
Explaining their action, the rebels said Mali's colonial master, France, attached Azawad to the ''Malian state it has created'' at independence in 1960 without the consent of the Azawad people.
They also recalled ''the massacres, atrocities and humiliation, dispossession and genocide of 1963, 1990, 2006, 2010 and 2012, which targeted only the people of Azawad until 1 April, 2012; and the ''inhuman behavior of Mali who used the various droughts (1967, 1973, 1984, 2010 ....) to (annihilate) our people, even as it sought and received a generous humanitarian support; and the ''accumulation of more than 50 years of bad governance and corruption'' in Mali.
To make matters worse, renegade Malian soldiers on 22 March seized power, toppling the government of President Mamadou Toumani Toure, a day after an African Union Peace and Security Council (PSC) met in Bamako, to discuss the crisis in the West African nation, attracting the wrath of the AU and its West African allies.
The renegade soldiers accused President Toure of failing to properly arm the military to deal with the Tuareg rebels.
The rebels, strengthened by returning Tuareg rebels from Libya, capitalized on the coup to sweep through the entire north, taking the key cities of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu.
The declaration of independence came as ECOWAS Defence Chiefs meet in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, to discuss the political situation in Mali, including the possible deployment of the ECOWAS Standby Force in the country.
Mali has since been suspended from participating in all activities of the AU and ECOWAS.
France has also dismissed the declaration of independence.
-0- PANA AO/VAO 6April2012