Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - The Malian putschists' deal with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to return the country to constitutional order will pave the way for a faster resolution of the crisis in its northern part, where Tuareg rebels on Friday declared the independence of the ''State of Azawad'', analysts said.
Under the deal, the military junta that seized power in Mali, led by Captain Amadou Sanogo, will hand over to the Speaker of the National Assembly (parliament), Dioncounda Traore. In return, ECOWAS is expected to lift its tough economic, political and diplomatic sanctions, which have threatened to squeeze the land-locked state, according to the state TV network ORTM.
PANA learnt that Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore, who is the ECOWAS Mediator for Mali, will now work with the parties to pick a consensual Prime Minister and agree on the process of election to return the country to democratic rule.
The 22 March military coup by a group of low-ranking soldiers helped pave the way for the Tuareg rebels in the north to quickly capture a large swath of territory in the north. On Friday, they followed up their conquest with the declaration of independence.
Explaining their action, the rebels, under the aegis of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), said Mali's colonial master, France, attached Azawad to the''Malian state it has created'' at independence in 1960 without the consent of Azawad
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) of our people, even as it sought and received a generous humanitarian support; and the ''accumulation of more than 50 years of bad governance, corruption'' in Mali.
The declaration was immediately rejected by ECOWAS, which called it ''null and void, and of no effect'', the African Union (AU), France and the US, among others.
Beyond the rejection, however, PANA learnt that the 15-member West African regional organization is pursuing a two-pronged approach to help maintain the territorial integrity of its member state (Mali).
''The ECOWAS Mediator for Mali, President Compaore, is also leading the negotiations to end the rebellion that led to the declaration of independence,'' a source close to the parties told PANA.
''But if mediation fails to resolve the crisis, ECOWAS is readying its Standby Force (for a possible military solution),'' added the source, without elaborating.
The willingness to use force to maintain the unity and territorial integrity of Mali, if necessary, was confirmed by ECOWAS in a statement signed by Commission President Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, and made available to PANA in Lagos on Friday evening.
Saying Mali is ''one and indivisible entity'', ECOWAS said it would take all necessary measures, including the use of force, to ensure the territorial integrity of the country.
-0- PANA SEG 7April2012