MNLA accuses Mali of "provocation" after rebels suspend participation in Ouagadougou process

Reports say tension heightens in Kidal region · Tuareg-majority rebels disappointed with Malian President denial to negotiate autonomy for Azawad or a federal system for Mali

The Tuareg-majority National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA, French acronym) has said in a statement that current violence taking place in the Tuareg-majority region of Kidal is due to "provocations" by the Malian army deployed there. According to a report by French RFI, there is "heightened tension" in Kidal since Sunday, including shots between Malian soldiers and MNLA rebels. The report says that MNLA officials and French military forces have convinced the sides to stop firing and to return to their bases.

This incident comes after MNLA leaders announced last week they were "suspending participation" in the Ouagadougou process. MNLA and the Malian Government had agreed last June in Burkina Faso's capital city that the Malian army could be redeployed to the Kidal region (up till then in the hands of MNLA) and that the Malian presidential election could also be held there. In exchange, Bamako accepted to start talks in order to find a new status for Mali's northern half, which MNLA calls Azawad and is inhabitated by Tuaregs, Arabs, Songhays and Peuls.

But the Tuareg guerrilla says it is disappointed with the position of the newly elected Malian President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, who earlier this month said that "there won't be independence, nor federalism, let alone any sort of autonomy" for Azawad. But MNLA had accepted to renounce independence claims in exchange for self-government within Mali, actually.