Ouagadougou - Three Tuareg and Arab rebel movements in
northern Mali announced their merger on Monday to form a united front in peace
talks with the authorities in Bamako.
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA),
the Arab Movement of Azawad (MAA) and the High Council for the Unity of Azawad
(HCUA) adopted a "political platform", a "negotiating
committee" and a joint "decision-making body" after several days
of talks in Burkina Faso.
The groups said the decision was "guided by a common
political will to prioritise the best interests of the people" of the vast
northern desert region they call Azawad, adding that a political solution was
the only option for securing peace.
The merger will go ahead "within 45 days" after
the membership of each of the groups had approved the move, they said, adding
that no name had yet been chosen for the new movement.
An accord signed in Ouagadougou in June envisaged a cessation
of hostilities between the Malian army and MNLA and HCUA fighters in the run-up
to the presidential elections which saw Ibrahim Boubacar Keita become president
The MAA is a recent creation by Mali's disaffected northern
Arab communities who wanted to leverage more influence in discussions with the
government in Bamako.