The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and Islamist Touareg rebels Ansar al-Din reportedly reached a deal Sunday (May 20th) to form a joint interim government for the self-proclaimed state of Azawad.
"Ansar al-Din and the MNLA have agreed to choose Belal Ag Sharif, head of the MNLA political bureau, to lead the interim government, and Mohamed Ag Nejim, a former officer in Mali’s army, has been selected as general co-ordinator of army," Nina Welet Ntalo, a member of the MNLA political bureau told Magharebia.
She added that "the two groups have formed a 40-member committee, with half of members representing Ansar al-Din and the other half representing MNLA, to declare the government Sunday or Monday (May 20th-21st)."
The agreement removes an important obstacle for the secessionists seeking an independent state in northern Mali but leaves open the question of the continued presence of fighters from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and other terrorist groups.
Abu Bakr al-Ansari, an analyst hailing from the Touareg tribe of Kalnassar who specialises in the on-going conflict in northern Mali, said the agreement came at a time of a "decline of the secular MNLA’s authority; something that undermined its argument about its ability to convince the world to support its secular state".
"Given this situation, we can understand the tireless efforts that MNLA leaders have been making for weeks to convince Ansar al-Din leader Iyad Ag Ghaly to join them and abandon his alliance with al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb," al-Ansari added. "However, this hasn’t been possible so far, although progress has been made in negotiations."