After Alpha Konaré was elected president of Mali in 1992, he furthered the process of Tuareg autonomy by not only honoring the concessions made in the National Pact but by removing the structure of federal and regional governments and allowing authority to take hold at the local level. Yet, decentralization had a greater political purpose, as it “effectively co-opted the Tuareg by allowing them a degree of autonomy and the benefits of remaining in the Republic.”[19]

However, this attempt to deal with the Tuareg did not hold as the National Pact only renewed debate about the unique status of Tuareg people and some rebel groups, such as the Arabic Islamic Front of Azawad, did not attend the National Pact talks[20] and the violence continued, eventually resulting in the deaths of 6,000-8,000 people before an peace agreement was signed by all factions.

It must be noted that the introduction the Arabic Islamic Front of Azawad to the Tuareg rebellion is also the introduction of radical Islam to the Tuareg fight for independence. The emergence of radical Islam was greatly aided by the Gaddafi regime. During the 1970s many Tuareg had fled to Libya and other countries, mainly for economic opportunity. Once there, Gaddafi “welcomed them with open arms. He gave them food and shelter. He called them brothers. He also started training them as soldiers.”[21]

Gaddafi then used these soldiers to found the Islamic Legion in 1972. The goal of the Legion was to “further [Gaddafi’s own] territorial ambitions in the African interior and advance the cause of Arab supremacy.”[22] The Legion was sent to fight the in Niger, Mali, Palestine, Lebanon, and Afghanistan. However, the Legion came to an end due to the price of oil declining in 1985, which meant that Gaddafi could no longer afford to recruit and train fighters. Coupled with the Legion’s crushing defeat in Chad, the organization was disbanded which left many Tuareg going back to their homes in Mali with large amounts of combat experience. The role of Libya played a role not only in the third Tuareg rebellion, but also in the current, ongoing fighting.[23]

The Third Tuareg Rebellion

The third rebellion was not so much a rebellion, but rather an insurgency that kidnapped and killed members of the Malian military. The insurgency began in May 2006, when “a group of Tuareg army deserters attacked military barracks in Kidal region, seizing weapons and demanding greater autonomy and development assistance.”[24] The former general Amadou Toumani Toure had won presidential elections in 2002 and reacted to the violence by working with a rebel coalition known as the Democratic Alliance for Change to establish a peace agreement that solely restated that Malian government’s commitment to improving the economy in the northern areas where the rebels lived. However, many rebels such as Ibrahim Ag Bahanga, who was killed just last year,[25] refused to abide by the peace treaty and continued to terrorize the Malian military until the government of Mali deployed a large offensive force to eliminate the insurgency.[26]

Yet, the fight for Tuareg independence remains and leads us into the current, ongoing rebellion.

Notes

[1] Ann Hershkowitz, The Tuareg in Mali and Niger: The Role of Desertification in Violent Conflict, American University, http://www1.american.edu/ted/ice/tuareg.htm (August 2005)

[2] http://www1.american.edu/ted/ice/tuareg.htm

[3] Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, Tamashek Cultural Orientation, http://famdliflc.lingnet.org/products/Tamashek/co_tt/tamashek.pdf

[4] Minority Rights, Tuareg, http://www.minorityrights.org/?lid=5315&tmpl

[5] Aman Sethi, “Battle Reveals Islamists Riding Over Ethnic Faultllines,” The Hindu, January 14, 2012 (http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-international/battle-reveals-islamists-riding-over-ethnic-faultlines/article4305856.ece)

[6] Global Security, Tuareg – Mali – 1962-1964, http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/tuareg-mali-1962.htm

[7] Colonel Dan Henk, Lieutenant Colonel Kalifa Keita, Conflict and Conflict Resolution in the Sahel: The Tuareg Insurgency in Mali, Strategic Studies Institute, http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/pub200.pdf

[8] John N. Hazard, “Marxian Socialism in Africa: The Case of Mali,” Comparative Politics 2:1 (1969), pg 4

[9] Hazard, pg 4

[10] Forest Preserve District of Cook County, IL, Topsoil and Subsoil, http://www.newton.dep.anl.gov/natbltn/300-399/nb372.htm

[11] http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/pub200.pdf

[12] Ibid

[13] Jaimie Bleck, “Countries at the Crossroads 2011 – Mali,” Freedom House, November 10, 2011 (http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/publisher,FREEHOU,,MLI,4ecba6492f,0.html)

[14] Freedom House, November 10, 2011

[15]  Jennifer C. Seely,  “A Political Analysis of Decentralisation: Coopting the Tuareg Threat in Mali,” The Journal of Modern African Studies 39:3 (2001), pg 9

[16] Uppsala Conflict Data Program, Tamanrasset Accord, http://www.ucdp.uu.se/gpdatabase/peace/mal19910106.pdf

[17] Seely, pg 9

[18] Seely, pg 10

[19] Seely, pg 15

[20] Katharine Murison, ed., Africa South of the Sahara 2003, 32 ed. (London, England: The Gresham Press, 2003) pg 640

[21] Jeffrey Gettleman, “Libyan Oil Buys Allies for Qaddafi,” New York Times, March 16, 2011 (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/16/world/africa/16mali.html?_r=0)

[22] Andrew McGregor, “Can African Mercenaries Save the Libyan Regime?,” Jamestown Foundation, February 23, 2011 (http://www.jamestown.org/programs/gta/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=37551&cHash=4e5f37dc8755b53452b6de6c97eef96a)

[23] Glen Johnson, “Libya weapons aid Tuareg rebellion in Mali,” Los Angeles Times, June 12, 2012 (http://articles.latimes.com/2012/jun/12/world/la-fg-libya-arms-smuggle-20120612)

[24] Freedom House, Mali, Freedom in the World 2009, http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2009/mali

[25] “Tuareg leader’s death linked to Libya arms trade,” France 24, August 27, 2011 (http://www.france24.com/en/20110827-mali-tuareg-leader-death-linked-libyan-weapons)

[26] “Army claims victory in clashes with Tuareg rebels,” France 24, January 2, 2009 (http://www.france24.com/en/20090102-mali-army-clashes-tuareg-rebels-claims-victory)