Members of Ansar Eddine. Image via MaliJet
Ansar Eddine, an Islamist group operating in northern Mali, whose aim is to impose Sharia law in Azawad, released a statement on December 26th which suspends the ceasefire that was agreed on December 21st.
In a statement released on their website (French), Ansar Eddine accuses the Malian government of buying arms, recruiting combatants, hiring mercenaries from Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, and Liberia, and preparing for war.
Ansar Eddine has started the year off by releasing their political platform, in which they accuse the “fascist” Malian government of treating the inhabitants of the Azawad region as second-class citizens ever since Mali’s independence. They also say that the imposition of Sharia law is a non-negotiable imperative, and they see no future for themselves in a united Mali given the brutality and neglect that the Bamako government has shown them over the past decades.
To illustrate the population of Azawad’s neglect by the Malian government over the years, Ansar Eddine claims that those currently living in refugee camps are now experiencing the best living situation since independence, with this being the first time they have full stomachs and education.
Ansar Eddine lists examples of Azawad’s suffering by stating that children die from easily preventable diseases, mothers die in childbirth, populations cannot speak their lcoal language and are left out of national politics, and that they never reap the benefits of the resources that are exploited by foreigners because all the profits go straight to Bamako.
Recognizing that complete independence of Azawad is not widely accepted by the international community, Ansar Eddine requests that Azawad "divorces" from Mali through mutual consent and becomes an autonomous region. Once Azawad is giving its autonomy, Asar Eddine claims that they will impose Sharia law since over 95% of Malians practice Islam, and they will guarantee peace, stability and security for the region.
The release of their political platform at the beginning of the new year and just before talks are scheduled to be held on January 10th in Ouagadougou between them, the Malian government, and members of MNLA, seem to suggest that Ansar Eddine has a pre-planned and perhaps hard-line strategy to achieve their goals. January 10th will prove to be a unique test to see which groups are open for dialogue and conceding some of their goals and which groups will remain firm in their demands.