Timeline of Events in Mali

22 June 2012

By Susana Molins Lliteras

Timeline of Events in Mali, January-July 2012

Below is a timeline of events in Mali since the resurgence of a Tuareg rebellion.  The 1960s various Tuareg movements have mobilized and made appeals for autonomy and even independence. In this most recent insurgency the rebels were emboldened by well-trained and equipped fighters who left Libya after the overthrow and death of Colonel Gaddafi in October 2011. After a few months they found themselves in Malian territory and following a few engagements with Malian armed forces, whom they easily beat, they captured the important towns of the North of the country.

17 January: Mouvement national pour la libération de l’Azawad (MNLA) gunmen clash with troops in the northern town of Ménaka after months of warnings that rebels have been amassing arms.  MNLA accuses the government of military provocation and a series of broken promises, and says its objective is “winning peace and justice for the Azawad community” and “stability for our region.” 

17-31 January: After initial rebel attacks on Ménaka, further fighting reported in different parts of the north, including Aguel-hoc, Tessalit, Léré, Andéramboukane and Niafunké.  Contradictory reports on military gains and losses from Malian military and MNLA, but government army reported to be losing ground.

Human rights organizations condemn government’s handling of the war and use of military helicopters against civilian targets.  Reports surface of massacre of government troops at Aguel-hoc after being taken over by Tuareg fighters, triggering rumours of MNLA alliance with Salafist rebels.  These rumours are denied.


1-2 February: Protests in garrison town of Kati, 15 km outside Bamako, directed at the Touré government for conduct of the war. The residencies of the local Tuareg community are sacked and looted, leading to a flight of Tuareg from Kati and Bamako.  Political leaders and civil society activists warn against extremists using the situation in the north to stoke inter-ethnic tensions.  Amnesty International accuses security forces of doing nothing to prevent attacks on houses and property belonging to Tuaregs, Arabs and Mauritanians.

3-4 February: Reports from Kidal of attempted rebel push on the town.

7 February: Population abandons Tessalit in far north as rebels reportedly lay siege to the town.

8 February: Rebels take Tinzawaten in the far north.

10 February: Malian helicopter gunships bombard rebel positions after fighting in which dozens are killed.  Former colonial power France calls for a ceasefire and talks.

18 February: MNLA attacks Hombori, a town on the main road between Mopti and Gao.  Rebels deny government accusations of killing a military chief in the area.

10-11 March: MNLA takes control of Tessalit, close to the Algerian frontier, while Malian military talks of ‘strategic withdrawal’.

13 March: Former Tuareg leader Iyad Ag Ghali sends out video claiming that the Ansar Dine (‘Ans_r al-d_n) movement, first reported on in December 2011, has played a key role in the conflict, but is fighting for imposition of “Shariah law” and not a separate Azawad.

21 March: Soldiers, who had previously deserted their positions in the North and had been repatriated via Niger, mutiny in Kati, protesting against poor leadership of the war and their lack of resources. Mutinous troops converge on the presidential palace and ORTM-TV station headquarters. Sporadic gunfire reported in Bamako. A mutiny in Gao leads to the arrest of the Malian General Staff in the North.

22 March: In a dawn broadcast, a group of soldiers describing itself as the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and Rule of Law (CNDRE) announces coup, blaming Touré for poor handling of the war. CNDRE declares suspension of the constitution, announces a curfew and closes frontiers. Many shops and businesses remain closed in Bamako. Ousted president Touré’s whereabouts not known, but he is reported to be safe. Several ministers and leading politicians detained.

23 March: African Union suspends Mali. Junta leader Captain Amadou Sanogo says he is ready for talks with rebels, but wants to preserve Mali’s territorial integrity.

27 March: ECOWAS threaten sanctions and possibly military force to dislodge the junta leaders.

30 March: Tuareg rebels enter the key town of Kidal in the north after soldiers abandon positions.  Witnesses confirm presence of combatants from both MNLA and Ansar Dine. Sanogo calls for external help against rebels.

31 March: Rebels enter northern garrison town of Gao.  Junta pledges to come up with proposals to restore constitutional order quickly. 

MNLA reports defection to its ranks of Colonel Major Elhadj Ag Gamou, a former rebel commander who has headed government military operations in the North, commanding Kidal before its fall. In a MNLA communiqué issued from Kidal, Gamou calls on “all Azawadis to join and strengthen the MNLA in its struggle for independence”. Later it becomes clear that Gamou has not defected but was forced to make this statement in order to obtain a safe conduct for his troops. His detachment of Tuareg army soldiers retreats into Niger, where they are disarmed and quartered in.

1 April: Rebels capture Timbuktu, giving them effective control over the northern half of Mali.  Reports from Timbuktu point to an Ansar Dine takeover from MNLA, chasing away combatants from the latter group.  Reports of widespread looting in Gao as rebels take over.

2 April: The 15-state ECOWAS bloc imposes sanctions including a shutdown of borders to force the junta to step down from power.

6 April: MNLA proclaims independence for what it calls the state of Azawad after announcing an end to the fighting. The coup leaders and neighbouring countries agree a plan under which the junta will hand over power in return for the end of trade and diplomatic sanctions.

8 April: President Toure resigns, paving the way for the soldiers who ousted him in the coup to stick by a deal to restore civilian rule and hand power to Diouncounda Traoré, president of the National Assembly. According to the constitution it will be Traoré‘s task to organise presidential elections within 40 days. These elections are never held.

9 April: Members of Mali’s Arab community in Timbuktu form the Azawad National Liberation Front, or FLNA, an armed group to fill the void left by the army’s retreat.

12 April: Former parliamentary speaker, Dioncounda Traore, is sworn in as interim president.  Sanogo rejects Ecowas troop deployment.

24 April: New prime minister, Cheick Modibo Diarra forms new government.  Interim cabinet consists of nonpolitical experts, including women, and soldiers seen as close to group that staged coup.

30 Apr: Soldiers loyal to deposed President Toure attempt a counter-coup and clash with Junta soldiers at the national broadcaster. 

2 May: Gunfire in Bamako junta hunts “mercenaries”.

15 May: Ansar Dine blocks an aid convoy with tones of food and medical supplies for the city of Timbuktu on Tuesday, objecting to the presence of women in a reception committee set up for the aid.

18 May: ECOWAS acknowledges that it has opened talks with Mali’s rebel groups, including fighters linked to al Qaeda, as part of its effort to restore constitutional rule in the country.

21 May: Interim President Dioncounda Traoré beaten up by protesters demanding his resignation when they stormed the presidential palace. The beating is close to the forty-day deadline Traoré constitutionally had to organise presidential elections. Many suspect coup leader Sanogo to have authorized this attack.

26 May: The MNLA and Ansar Dine announce that they have agreed to merge and create an independent Islamic state in the northern half of Mali.

29 May: Agreement between MNLA and Ansar Dine to create an Islamic state runs into trouble over how strictly to impose Sharia law.

1 June: Senior members of MNLA reject a week-old pact with Ansar Dine saying it goes against their secular principles, while Ansar Dine claim pact is irrevocable.

12 June: Protesters in Kidal demand the retreat of Ansar Dine, the abolition of “sharia law” and a return of MNLA to the city. The demonstrations are dispersed by whip-wielding Ansar Dine police.

17-19 June: Negotiations take place in Ouagadougou between Ansar Dine MNLA and Burkina mediator Blaise Compaoré. The negotiations are aborted.

21 June: An unmarried couple is accused of extramarital sex and is publicly flogged by Ansar Dine members in Timbuktu.

29 June: Clashes between Ansar Dine and its allies with the MNLA lead to the MNLA being ousted from Gao and Timbuktu. All cities in Northern Mali are under control of the mujahedin.

29-30 June: Ansar Dine militants attack tombs of saints in Timbuktu.  They use pick-axes and other instruments beginning to knock down the tombs of Sidi Mahmoud, Sidi Alpha Moya, and Sidi Mukhtar.  Thereafter they attack and deface a door in the Sidi Yahya mosque.

4 July: Refugees from northern Mali in the capital Bamako demonstrate against the government and military who are incapable to counter the Ansar Dine occupation of the North.

  • Comments: 0


  1. Yulistiya’s avatar
    Yulistiya 10/09/2012 #

    C est la langue qui de9finit tout pelpue : OK, mais ce n est pas la langue qui de9finit un Etat sinon pas mal de pays qui devraient partitionner dans le coin.Bref votre enthousiasme vis e0 vis des touareg semble juste oublier que le Nord Mali est le lieu de vie de plusieurs pelpues parmi lesquels les songhaef, les peuls Ces pelpues ne se reconnaissent pas de la meame langue mais ils sont de le0 aussi. Faut il donc les expulser pour laisser aux touareg la re9alisation de leur objectif nationaliste ?Vous semblez en outre oublier qu a cette offensive nationaliste s ajoute une offensive islamiste porte9e par Ansar Dine, et que ce mouvement ne semble pas force9ment porteur des valeurs propres e0 un mouvement   anhistorique fabuleux   Bref encore le vieux mythe de l’homme bleu seul dans ses dunes, opprime9 par le colon d abord puis par le pouvoir centralise9 ensuite. Vieille lune complaisamment reprise et relaye9e partout et qui semble juste me9connaitre la re9alite9 bien moins simple du terrain.

  2. Jonelle’s avatar
    Jonelle 23/10/2018 #

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    acturience - Duane,

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