Libya's ongoing conflict has had a destabilizing effect on North Africa and now has spread into Mali.
Ethnic Tuareg soldiers, who had been fighting for Muammar Gaddafi have left Libya and now now helped to form a new rebel group in their home country.
The battle-ready Tuareg soldiers acted as a catalyst for the formation of the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (NMLA), said a spokesman for the new group, according to BBC.
The Tuareg — a nomadic group that spans the Saharan desert in the North African countries of Mali, Niger, Libya, Algeria and Chad — were among Gaddafi’s most loyal supporters, CBS reports.
But they also have been long-time opponents of Mali President Amadou Toumani Toure’s government, complaining that the central government located in the southern capital city of Bamako has ignored the Tuareg in the country’s impoverished north.
Mali had warned that the Libyan conflict would have a negative effect on North Africa.
This latest development is why Mali was such a strong supporter of the African Union position on Libya, which favoured a negotiated settlement instead of the Nato-led bombing campaign, according to the BBC.
“We’ve overcome our differences and will now present the common political demands which reflect the profound aspirations of this population,” said Hama Ag Sid’Ahmed, spokesperson for the NMLA.
Many of the fighters loyal to Gaddafi had flooded back into Mali when the tide turned toward the NTC. The returned soldiers had been in talks with a Tuareg rebel faction in Mali last week, according to News 24.
Ag Sid’Ahmed, then the spokesperson for the North of Mali Tuareg Movement, told the Associated Press last week that they were working with the pro-Gaddafi soldiers to organize a possible rebellion against Mali’s government.
From 2006 to 2009, Ag Sid’Ahmed’s faction rebelled against the Toure government, which has been in power since 1991. The merger of the rebel groups into the NMLA could become a significant challenge to Toure.
President Toure is sending Interior Minister General Kafougouna Kona to the region this week in an effort to prevent a renewed fight. Kona is trusted by the people and has experience negotiating peace with with rebel Tuaregs, according to the BBC.