The speaker in this video is Colonel Machkenani, one of the major military leaders of the Tuareg-led multi-ethnic MNLA movement for the independence of Azawad (formerly “northern Mali”). The MNLA is fighting to establish a secular democracy in Azawad, a new country, separate from Mali which has oppressed people in this region for many decades since Independance.
Col. Machkenani is a veteran of the Tuareg revolutions in Mali. The men of his brigade were brutally tortured and killed by the Malian army during the revolution of the 1990s, and he was a sole survivor. The MNLA began a new revolution on January 17, 2012, and captured the three major cities of Azawad by the end of March 2012 (Gao, Timbuktu, and Kidal).
In April 2012, several militant Islamist groups moved in, hijacked the MNLA revolution, and pushed the MNLA out of the cities. These Islamists have ties to al-Qaida; they have been implementing Sharia law and oppressing the population with flogging, stoning, and amputation of hands and legs.
But the MNLA continues to control many regions outside the cities, and they plan to recapture the cities. Col. Machkenani and his fighters are currently located in the Menaka region of southeastern Azawad. He is speaking in Temasheq, the Tuareg language. Here is a translation in English by one of our Tuareg correspondants:
“In the name of God, right now we are in Menaka, and we are grateful to God for everything. We send greetings to all our brothers and our supporters. We want you to redouble your efforts and endeavours. Some people think that the MNLA has been eliminated – which is absolutely untrue. The MNLA is strongly entrenched in many places in Azawad and it will endure forever. We want to tell the world that we will continue our fight for the liberation of our homeland. We aren't going to give up until the Azawad is completely liberated! Our message to the world is this: We need your help and assistance for the sake of our people's legitimate rights. Our tactical withdrawal from Gao [several months ago] was due to many factors. We wanted to avoid spilling the blood of our children, our elderly and our people. Gao is in our hands – we can seize it at any moment!"