After months of advocating for a more engaged Moroccan diplomacy in the Malian conflict and for including the The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) in any future resolution to the conflict in the North, I am pleased to report that Morocco’ Party of Ethnicity and Modernity (known as PAM) has decided to organize a reconciliation meeting between the Malian government and the Touareg rebels.
According to a report published in The Moroccan daily Al-Massae, The PAM will host Malian officials and representatives of the MNLA in the Moroccan city of Marrakech to discuss the possibility and viability of a proposed “advanced local autonomy plan” for the Azawad region in Northern Mali.
The Marrakech meeting, slated for April 5th and 6th, came about as a result of the MNLA leadership’s attempts to use Morocco’s good relations with the Bamako government as a venue to convince Malian officials of the Touareg good intention and earnestness about bring the conflict in the North to a peaceful end. According to AL-Massae, After a meeting between PAM parliamentarian and the MNLA leader , Moussa Ag Chérif during which the Touareg leader assured his Moroccan hosts of his organizations repudiation of past calls for the independence of the Azawad.
As fighting between French forces and Islamist militants continues in the North, France and Mali realize the difficulty the Malian state will encounter in securing the North without the help of the local Touareg. Morocco, with its experience in the Western Sahara and without a hidden Agenda in Mali, is suited to play the role of mediator between the government and the Touareg rebels.
The main hurdle to the implementation of a local autonomy plan in the Azawad remains Algeria’s undeclared agenda. The Algerian government views a locally ruled Azawad a direct threat to its nation territorial integrity. With social and political trouble brewing in the Algerian Sahara including areas populated with Algerian Touareg, Algiers has steadfastly rejected any plan that may lead to the independence of the Azawad.
Despite its pro-independence position in the Western Sahara conflict, the Algerian government has opted to support and assist the French military efforts rather than entertain the idea of Touareg autonomy as a political solution to the conflict in Mali.
Because of its long porous borders with Mali and its military might, Algeria could sway the outcome of the Malian crisis. For now, Morocco should bring the two opposing parties to the negation table and hope for the best.