The UN Security Council, on Wednesday, called for an immediate ceasefire and return to democracy. In response, the secular rebels who control the northern half of Mali declared an immediate halt to military operations. However, the military junta which seized control of southern Mali showed no readiness to surrender power.
At this point, the rebel alliance faces two immediate difficulties. One is that the two major factions have pposing visions of the new nation. The Islamist group, Ansar Dine, has declared Sharia law in Timbuktu (one of the three major cities in northern Mali.) The forces of the secular rebel group, MNLA, have been driven for the city but not from the major cities of Gao or Kidal. However, this hasn’t stopped Islamists in those two cities from ransacking buildings which are seen as anti-Islamic e.g. bars, churches, aid organizations. MNLA would like to create a separate country in the north. Ansar Dine, however, would like to control all of Mali.
The other immediate problem is that ECOWAS, the coalition of West African nations, has already stated that it rejects the partition of Mali and demands a return to democratic rule This may be, in part, because many of those countries face their own North-South tensions, as well as histories of military coups. ECOWAS has a military force on alert and threatened to intervene. However, they seem unlikely to invade to depose the junta. And they also seem unlikely to intervene so long as the junta is in power.
ECOWAS, however, imposed stringent economic sanctions on Mali, effectively closing trade to the landlocked nation. This includes the supply of all petroleum fuels such as gasoline or diesel. Mali’s assets in the central bank have been frozen, preventing the government from meeting financial obligations such as the wages of government workers, including soldiers.