By William Tucker
Two rebel groups that participated in the effort to seize northern Mali in the midst of a military coup in the capital of Bamako have signed a formal agreement that merges the two groups into one governing entity. The Tuareg group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), and the Ansar Dine, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Mahgreb, signed the accord in Timbuktu on May 26. Following the signing of the agreement an MNLA leader stated that Azawad is now an independent, sovereign state. Both groups have had substantial disagreements in the past making this merger somewhat curious. The MNLA has been largely secular, while Ansar Dine is more in line with the international jihadist movement. How this agreement will work remains to be seen; however spokesmen for both groups have stated that some form of Islamic law will be implemented. One thing to consider in this merger is the possibility that the MNLA, which has been fighting for a Tuareg state since the 1960’s, is expecting some form of intervention to take place and may have found the merger to be politically expedient. If the MNLA holds true to its past ideology it may seek to suppress the ideology and political influence of Ansar Dine over time. There is a lot of moving parts in Mali and the wider region right now and this merger is just one aspect that deserves scrutiny.
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