(CNN) -- Separatist rebels who recently captured large areas of Mali's vast Sahara region in the north of the country have declared independence for a region they call Azawad.
The declaration was made in a statement posted online by the Secretary General of the Azawad National Liberation Movement.
The claim of independence follows "more than 50 years of corruption and poor governance with the complicity of the army and the politicians, putting people's lives at risk in Azawad," the MNLA said.
The African Union expressed its "total rejection" of the rebels' independence claim in a statement Friday.
African Union chairman Jean Ping "firmly condemns this announcement, which is null and of no value whatsoever," the statement said, and urges the international community to support this position. Read More