No strict sharia in Mali's north – rebels

2012-05-28 10:41
Dakar - Malian rebels who declared an independent Islamic state in the country's north said on Sunday they would impose sharia but not in a strict form.

The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which has fought to make Mali's northern Azawad region an autonomous state, on Saturday signed an agreement to merge with Islamist Ansar Dine rebels seeking to impose sharia across Mali.

A mix of rebels have occupied the northern two-thirds of Mali since a 22 March coup led to a collapse of army resistance. Western and African leaders fear the desert zone has become a haven for criminal and extremist groups, including al-Qaeda.

"The Koran will be a source of the laws of the state," said Moussa Ag Acharatoumane, an MNLA spokesperson.

"But we will apply the things we want and leave aside those we don't. It will not be a strict application of the law."

Ag Acharatoumane did not give any more details, saying only that religious leaders and legal experts would be called to spell out how this would be rolled out in Azawad.

A spokesperson for the government on Sunday rejected the rebel merger, saying Mali would remain united and secular.

The MNLA declared Azawad an independent state in April after sweeping across Mali's three northern regions: Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu.

The move was universally rejected abroad and contested by Ansar Dine, the Islamist fighters who fought alongside the MNLA but said they wanted to impose sharia throughout Mali.

Lack of trust

During an awkward joint occupation of Mali's main northern towns, Islamists sought to impose sharia, sparking a number of protests by residents used to a more moderate interpretation of Islamic law.

Hundreds took to the streets earlier this month in the town of Gao to contest the ban on playing football or video games, and Ansar Dine fighters fired into the air to disperse crowds.

Meanwhile, separatist MNLA rebels saw themselves sidelined by the more militarily powerful Islamists, who locals and security experts said had the backing of fighters from al-Qaeda's North African wing, Aqim.

Residents say Islamist fighters are more present in the centre of the main towns while MNLA gunmen control access points. Tensions simmered but clashes never broke out between the two groups and they merged in Gao after weeks of talks.

Given the differences between the groups and the lack of trust between leaders in a zone where allegiances frequently shift, the alliance is seen by many as opportunistic, and one that could further complicate efforts to end the crisis.

"I think this is a marriage of convenience," said Kwesi Aning of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Ghana.

Power struggle

"[But] it makes the negotiations with MNLA and Ansar Dine very difficult as they will present a united front in terms of their demands. They are saying we will have to pay a very high price for them to change their positions," he said.

There have also been public protests against the MNLA, with many non-Tuareg civilians saying they do not want independence.

But the rebels' presence in the north has been uncontested as a power struggle continues in the capital between civilian government and the military, which has officially ceded power but continues to meddle in politics.

West Africa's Ecowas regional bloc, which is leading efforts to tackle the crisis, is seeking to end the political crisis in the capital before tackling the north.

Malian and regional mediators have held talks with the rebels but, potentially further complicating the situation, the regional al-Qaeda leader last week called on his fighters in Mali to back the Islamists seeking to impose sharia.

Read more on:    ecowas  |  al-qaeda  |  mali  |  west africa  |  religion

Read News24’s Comments Policy publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining

Inside News24


Hilarious mortal kombat elevator prank!

How would you react if you had to share a lift with this guy?

This is how the Top Gear presenters spend their £55 million!
Thirty and still single? There’s hope!
SA’s Playboy Playmate of the year in action!
12 lies everyone accepts as fact

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now! - shop online today

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at While stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 35% off books

Save up to 35% on the latest page-turners. While stocks last. Shop now!

Good Morning, Mr Mandela by Zelda la Grange

Good Morning, Mr Mandela tells the extraordinary story of how a young woman had her life, beliefs, prejudices and everything she once believed in utterly transformed by the greatest man of her time. Now R221. Pre-order now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


It may be hard to stay cool, calm and collected. Your emotions can get quite heated in the moment. You may benefit from finding more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.