The first domino to fall in Mali was a coup by a young army captain, Amadou Sanogo. The new ruling junta's initial complaint was that the government wasn't spending enough money and manpower in the fight against the Tuaregs. But the result of the coup has been to throw the military – trained extensively by the United States and France in recent years, largely because of fears of Islamist militants in the region – into disarray. This in turn has created more space for the Tuaregs' National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and today's independence declaration. ("Azawad" is a territorial term whose precise meaning is unclear, but includes much of the desert region where Tuareg live.)
The declaration has been rejected from almost every quarter that matters. The African Union, which opposed the intervention to depose Qaddafi, joined France and the European Union in dismissing the notion of a new independent nation.
And an AFP report indicates that the independence declaration is already dividing Mali's Tuareg. Ansar Dine, a smaller armed group led by a Tuareg but with declared pan-Islamist aims that had made common cause with the MNLA in recent months, came out against independence.