A handout picture released by the Mouvement national pour la libération de l'Azawad (Azawad National Liberation Movement - MLNA) on April 2, 2012 and taken in February 2012 reportedly shows MNLA fighters gathering in an undisclosed location in Mali.
The African Union (AU) has totally rejected Mali’s Tuareg rebel proclamation of independence in the north of the country, dismissing the claim as “null and of no value”.
AU Commission chief Jean Ping expressed the bloc's "total rejection" of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) declaration of a homeland in the north saying he "firmly condemns this announcement, which is null and of no value whatsoever."
In a statement, Ping also condemned the seizure of the Algerian consulate in Mali’s northeastern town of Gao and called for the immediate release of the kidnapped diplomats.
"The AU and its member states will spare no efforts to contribute to the restoration of the authority of the Republic of Mali on its entire territory," the statement added.
Meanwhile, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), slapped sanctions on Mali on Monday and announced that the penalties would remain in place until the restoration of constitutional order in the country.
"All diplomatic, economic, financial measures and others are applicable from today (Monday) and will not be lifted until the reestablishment of constitutional order," said Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara, the chairman of the 15-nation regional bloc.
On March 22, mutinous Malian soldiers led by coup leader, Captain Amadou Sanogo, toppled President Amadou Toumani Toure and took control of government institutions.
The leaders of the movement said they had mounted the coup out of anger at the government's inability to contain the two-month-old rebellion in the north.
Mali's Tuareg separatist rebels declared a unilateral ceasefire on Friday saying the group had already seized control of large areas in the northern half of the country to create an independent Azawad state on the edge of Sahara Desert.