The latest: Mali's parliamentary head, who was forced into exile after last month's coup, returned to Mali on Saturday, marking the first step in Mali's path back to constitutional rule. Dioncounda Traore, 70, was by chance in Burkina Faso on March 21 when soldiers stormed the presidential palace, ousting the leader and overturning two decades of democracy. While other ministers were arrested, Traore remained free, though unable to return.
How it happened: Under pressure from neighboring nations -- including sanctions that sealed off landlocked Mali's borders -- the officer who seized power, Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo, agreed to return the nation to civilian rule.
What it means: The accord is a milestone for Africa, where coups or attempted coups are still a regular occurrence.
What's next: The constitution states that the head of the assembly becomes interim president for 21 to 40 days. However, the timeframe will likely be extended.
Rebellion in the north: Ethnic Tuareg rebels took advantage of the nation's chaos to make military gains, seizing the capitals of the three northern provinces and declaring independence last week. They said that the northern half of Mali, an area larger than France, was now called Azawad.
Who are the Tuaregs: A light-skinned, nomadic people never fully subjugated by French colonizers, they have always lived a life apart from the darker-skinned southerners who govern them in Mali and Niger.
What's next: The independence is unlikely to be embraced by anyone. The African Union has a near-ironclad policy against the dismemberment of its member countries.