Having effectively ousted the military from the northern half of Mali, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA) has abandoned the idea of Azawad being an independent state for now, citing the growing crisis in the region.
The NMLA forces took over Azawad mostly on its own, but an al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) affiliate called Ansar Dine set up shop almost immediately thereafter, and began demanding NMLA agree to make Azawad a Taliban-style religious state. The two sides clashed, but Ansar Dine seemed to get the better of them on most occasions, taking Gao and Timbuktu.
Now, with more and more countries talking up an invasion aimed at crushing the rebellion, NMLA is conceding that independence is no longer practical, but are instead pushing an alternative of relative independence within the existing state framework.
“It would be something like Quebec,” said Ibrahim Ag Assaleh, saying they are hoping for cultural, political and economical independence.