Rebels in northern Mali are growing increasingly repressive as they impose their strict interpretation of Islamic law, or sharia, throughout the region.
The situation is being highlighted at the United Nations on Wednesday. Mali wants a resolution backing a regional military force to help recapture the north.
In March, Amadou Toumani, the former president, was deposed in a military coup. Soldiers accused him of ignoring a Tuareg rebellion in the north.
“The three groups are the same…enforcing a weird so-called Islamic law exactly like the Taliban in Afghanistan in the late 1990s…preventing music, whipping/flogging women for wearing perfume or jewellery. It’s a massive abuse of human rights and totally contradictory to African culture.”
– Renaud Girard, Le Figaro magazine chief foreign correspondent
But the chaos that caused in the capital, Bamako, allowed the Tuareg to take control of the northern areas. And by May, there was a new interim government in Mali.
The Tuareg, helped by the Islamic group Ansar Dine, declared northern Mali an independent state.
But the Tuareg have different demands than did the Ansar Dine and other Islamic groups, which want to impose Islamic law, and the Tuareg were forced from the region.
Two-thirds of Mali is now controlled by Ansar Dine, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), and their ally the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Their territory includes Timbuktu, Kidal and Gao, as well as the strategic town of Douentza.
Rights groups say rebels in Mali have committed serious abuses.
Human Rights Watch has accused rebels of recruiting hundreds of children, and of using murder, flogging and amputation as punishment.
Inside Story asks: What is the government in Mali doing? Will there be an international military intervention?
Joining presenter Laura Kyle for the discussion are guests: Sunny Ugoh, the director of communications for ECOWAS, the West African regional bloc; Jean-Marie Fardeau, the France director for Human Rights Watch; and Renaud Girard, the chief foreign correspondent for Le Figaro.
“The situation is very serious and in all the cities [including] the smaller ones the level of human rights violations is increasing and the interpretation of the sharia by the three Islamist group is very tough and very violent.”
Jean-Marie Fardeau, the France director for Human Rights Watch