Monday, 23 April 2012

Azawad, A New African Country But Commonwealth Collectors Can Relax.

This posting does not do what it says on the can and is not about the stamps of a Commonwealth country but the subject still interests me although it will not affect my stamp collecting habits.
For some time there has been a rebellion taking place by the nomadic Tuaregs in the north of the west African state of Mali, including involvement of the area around the legendary city of Timbuktu. On 21 March 2012 a military coup overthrew the Malian president in the atmosphere of growing frustration within the armed forces over the government's ineffective responses to the Tuareg rebellion. With the confusion following the coup, the Tuareg rebels of the MNLA and Islamist group, Ansar Dine, captured Kidal and Gao from the Malian armed forces and then Timbuktu on 1 April 2012 and, two days afterwards, introduced sharia law in Timbuktu and this resulted in most of the Christian population of Timbuktu fleeing from the city. On 6 April 2012, the MNLA declared the whole of the north of Mali to be the independent republic of Azawad and so a new country was born. Like the republic of Somaliland, Azawad has not received any international recognition. The flag depicted above was adopted as the new national flag on 6 April 2012. Quite what the implications for the new country's postal services and stamp issues will be is not yet known. I was fortunate to visit Timbuktu in 2007 and sent a postcard from the post office in Timbuktu. I was with a small party and the post office was rather stretched by the entire group's wishes to send postcards home from the legendary city since it did not appear to have adequate numbers of correct value stamps available for use on international postcards. A large number of low value stamps were recruited to make up the correct rate and some of the postcards ended up covered in stamps to the detriment of the receiver being able to read the message from the sender. My postcard escaped with having just three stamps applied to it:-
The stamps are cancelled by a double ring postmark in dark blue with the inscription around the circle of "POSTES MALI" and "TOMBOCTOU" with the date, "19.03.07" at the centre. Presumably, if the new government of Azawad wishes to keep the postal service going in the immediate future, any stamps in the post office in Timbuktu and any other post offices in the territory, could be overprinted with the new country's name as has happened in so many other new states over the years. As Azawad is not a member of the UPU, and is not likely to be in the future, there will be no overseas postal services from there. Anyone interested in obtaining stamps from Azawad is clearly faced with a problem even if any are produced and so, for once, the collector of Commonwealth stamps can sit back and relax and observe what happens with interest but not with the anxiety of needing to obtain any such stamps themselves.
The above photograph, taken at Timbuktu in 2007, shows a Tuareg, suitably decked out for the tourists in splendid blue costume, standing by the monument, the Flamme de la Paix, which was built on the spot where 3000 weapons were burnt after a previous Tuareg rebellion. The monument would seem to be rather meaningless now and one wonders if this new country will last rather a long time given the political problems in Mali. Stamp collectors will no doubt be at the forefront of seekers of information about what is happening there.

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