News24

Mali Arabs attempt to unify

2013-04-09 07:33

Nouakchott - The diverse communities of Arabs in northern Mali have unified under a new organisation claiming to represent the interests of all Malian Arabs, it said in a statement obtained by AFP on Monday.

"The Convergence of Arab Movements and Associations for the Unity and Development of Azawad" was formed after a conference on 5 and 6 April in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, the statement from its founders said.

It was formed by "leaders, executives, managers and notable movements and associations of the Arab community of Azawad", says the text, using the name given to a vast northern triangle in Mali which is larger than France.

"The Convergence is the unique legitimate representation of the aspirations of our community," it continues, before going on to voice concern over rights abuses suffered by Malian Arabs and condemning terrorism.

Its board includes the head of the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA), former Malian lawmakers and Arab diplomats in Bamako, spokesperson Boubacar Ould Taleb told AFP, but the group does not include members of any armed groups from northern Mali.

The region is a melting pot of ethnic groups, with Tuareg desert nomads, Arabs and the black African Fulani and Songhai having lived together for centuries in a region made famous by the ancient city of Timbuktu.

The Tuareg, who have long felt marginalised by the southern government, relaunched a decades-old rebellion for autonomy last year under the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).

They used the chaos following a military coup in March 2012 to occupy and declare independence for northern Mali before losing the territory to their former allies, Islamists wanting to create a hardline Islamic state.

The Malian government, supported by a French-led military intervention which routed the Islamists in January, has regained control of its northern cities and has created a "dialogue and reconciliation commission" to "seek, through dialogue, reconciliation among all communities in Mali".

Ould Taleb said "The Convergence" was ready to take part in the commission and negotiations with the government over the region's future.