The Malian Army, as mentioned two days ago, have marched north towards Kidal, and have successfully captured the town of Anefis, where they encountered MNLA resistance. There have been 10 rebel casualties reported and two Malian soldiers injured. The Army continued northward this morning, but were stopped in their tracks by the French at the gates of Kidal. Mali jet reports:
‘Only a few kilometres from the town of Kidal, the Malian forces have been stopped by the French who are manoeuvering to start negotiations in extremis with the rebels from the MNLA so that they put down their arms. France intend to give a last chance to the MNLA , favouring a peaceful reconquest by negotiations.’
We are on the edge of our seats.
Of course the reconquest of Kidal by peaceful means would be the preferable option. But the possibility seems remote. The MNLA are dug in, and are hardly likely to change their tune. But who knows? With the weight of the French behind the negotiations, and with the French finally asking the MNLA to lay down their arms, perhaps it will work? Even Holland admitted yesterday that the flag of Mali needs to fly at Kidal before elections can be held.
Failing the above scenario, it is hard to know what sort of ‘negotiations’ the French are talking about here. The Malian people have shown clearly that they do not accept an armed MNLA in Kidal. The MNLA have shown clearly that they intend not to give in. So if they don’t accept to put down their arms, what is there to say?
Let's wait and see. But whatever gratitude the Malians feel towards the French and however commendable it is to try and resolve a conflict by negotiations, would it really be possible for the French to force their former colony to dance to their tune ? Mali is, however poor and however weak now, still a sovereign nation. Once more it must be understood by the international community that the MNLA, who are now jeopardizing the peaceful return to democracy by their refusal to lay down their arms, does not even represent the Tuareg people of Kidal! The entire Malian nation including the majority of Tuaregs except this tiny pocket of rebels want the Malian flag to fly over Kidal!