Tuareg Rebellions

Tuareg Rebellions
   Like many African peoples, the Tuareg were affected by the decolonization and national liberation efforts and transformations sweeping Africa in the 1950s and 1960s. They were tempted to envisage a postcolonial all-Tuareg Saharan Republic, Azawad, bringing together Tuareg-populated areas in northern Mali, northern Niger, southern Algeria, and southwestern Libya. However, the Tuareg's primary allegiances and ties were directed to their immediate and local communities. Since the times of the Sultanate of Agadez, the Tuareg have never established a unified political and military front.
   During the years following national independence in 1960s, the new national governments could not meet the goals of development. Administrative inexperience, combined with unworkable social and economic policies, proved disastrous to the economy and to the people's civil and political liberties. In addition to poverty was a conviction among the Tuareg that they were singled out for persecution and discrimination and were more marginalized than other ethnic groups in the distribution of state benefits. The Tuareg observed that most of the senior leaders of postcolonial Mali and Niger, for example, were drawn from the southern ethnic groups, which were hostile to the pastoral culture of the northern nomads. The Tuareg were also alarmed by the rhetoric of the land reform program that threatened their privileged access to agricultural products and exchange relationships with sedentary vassal groups. Some Tuareg leaders began to suspect that the new national elites were bent on destroying Tuareg culture (ecocide) under the pretext of economic growth and development.
   The first Tuareg rebellion began in northern Mali in early 1962, employing guerilla tactics and raids against government targets. The attacks escalated in size and destructiveness through 1963, resulting in very disturbed conditions in the Tuareg-populated north. However, the Tuareg attacks did not reflect a unified leadership or clear evidence of a coherent strategic vision. The insurgents generally depended on their camels for transportation and were equipped mainly with unsophisticated and rather old small arms. They also failed to mobilize the Tuareg community as a whole. The Malian government reacted quickly and harshly. Mali's army conducted repressive counterinsurgency operations. By the end of 1964, the government's harsh methods had crushed the rebellion. It then placed the Tuaregpopulated northern regions under a repressive military administration. Consequently, Mali's Tuareg fled as refugees to neighboring countries. While the government had succeeded in ending the rebellion, its coercive and violent measures alienated many Tuaregs who had not supported the insurgents. Atrocities and human rights abuses on both sides contributed to a climate of fear and distrust in the north. Furthermore, while the government subsequently announced a number of programs to improve local infrastructure and economic development, it lacked the resources to follow through on most of them. As a result, Tuareg grievances remained largely unaddressed, and resentment continued in many Tuareg communities after 1964. Clearly, the problem of instability in the north had simply been deferred, not resolved.
   Moreover, the region suffered devastating droughts between 1968 and 1974 and then again in 1980 and 1985. This undermined the pastoral livelihood of nomadic peoples in the Sahelian states, killing a very high proportion of the livestock and forcing many of the nomads to find refuge in squalid refugee camps or in urban areas in the south, where their pastoral skills were of little economic value. The Tuareg accused the government of Mali of disregarding the plight of the Tuareg in the drought of the early 1970s, arguing that Malian officials withheld food relief in order to destroy the Tuaregs or drive them out of Mali. During this period, the state undertook significant relief efforts among the northern nomads, including the Tuareg.
   The original grievances of Mali's Tuaregs in the early 1960s have never completely disappeared. These were rooted in a Tuareg conviction that the national governments were unresponsive and hostile. The grievances were exacerbated by the highly coercive counterinsurgency campaign during the first Tuareg rebellion and by the subsequent harsh military administration of northern Mali. Many Tuaregs still distrusted and feared their non-Tuareg neighbors. Fears of cultural genocide stemmed also from the government handling of famine relief. Tuaregs increasingly were dissatisfied with conditions of life in the country at the end of the 1980s and blamed the government for their misery. The general dissatisfaction in Mali with President Moussa Traoré's government resulted in a coup d'état in 1991. However, prior to the coup, the Tuaregs of northern Mali launched their second rebellion (in June 1990). In 1990, they consisted of four major movements and a number of minor ones. Tuareg combatants were mounted on light vehicles and seemed to have an unlimited supply of modern small arms. They also were much more effective in destroying government facilities and eluding government pursuit, finding apparent safe haven in neighboring countries.
   While the bulk of the rebels apparently were Tuaregs, some Arabs and Maures joined the various rebel groups. Small numbers of rebels came from other Malian groups, including Bellahs or black Tuareg. Initially, the government reacted to the new Tuareg rebellion by declaring a state of emergency in the north and attempting to repeat the strong-arm counterinsurgency measures of the 1960s, including very destructive and massive attacks on Tuareg communities. This featured encouragement of the non-Tuareg population in the region to attack Tuareg communities. The army and the other security forces (Gendarmerie and National Guard) sustained significant casualties. The rebellion compounded the political and economic problems of the state: the regime faced severe financial constraints and a growing domestic opposition. President Traoré, to his credit, recognized very early that he could not achieve a military solution to the rebellion, and he accepted offers of mediation by Algeria. On 6 January 1991, government and Tuareg military leaders, after a series of discussions, signed the Tamanrasset Accords (in the Algerian town of the same name). Of great significance was the fact that, despite the change in the Malian government as a result of the coup d'état in March 1991 and the national election of 1992, all parties confirmed the provisions of the Tamanrasset Accords. As a result of the continued consultations within Mali, leaders from all communities signed the National Pact in Mali's capital, Bamako, on 11 April 1992.
   In Niger, prior to the 1990 Tuareg assault on the Niger armed forces, there was growing discontent among Tuaregs with the economic and cultural marginalization and the sidelining of their interest by the governments of the four Saharan states. The government of Niger's repression and massacres after the Tchin Tabaraden ignited a full-scale rebellion. Armed groups clashed sporadically with government forces, and this coincided with the spillover of Mali's Tuareg rebellion. By 1995, about a dozen liberation movements emerged in Niger. Four of these were based in Paris under the umbrella organization of the Coordination de la Résistance Armée (CRA), and four established the Mouvement des Fronts Unifiés de l'Azawad. Mano Dayak led the efforts of the CRA in Paris and wrote a book on the Tuareg grievances against the government of Niger.
   In 1991, the National Conference in Niamey recognized the Tuareg grievances, and the government dismissed some senior military officials for their role in the Aïr atrocities and initiated a dialogue with the Tuareg, until then regarded as bandits or rogue elements seeking revenge. The Tuareg demands were the evacuation of the government of Niger military forces from Aïr; a federal system, with the north enjoying cultural, religious, administrative, and military autonomy; funding for the economic development of the north; integration of Tuareg in the army; and independence for a Sahara Confederation of Tuareg peoples-an extremist position voiced by some Tuaregs, mostly those of Mali. Sporadic negotiations and armed clashes continued during the early 1990s, but they led nowhere. In 1994, with Niger's government drained by the cost of the war, it decided to negotiate with the Tuareg under the auspices of France. These negotiations led to a cease-fire in April 1995. They also resulted in Niger's agreeing to the Tuareg demands, including setting up ethnically defined administrative areas with their own assemblies, governors, and cultural autonomy.

Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) . . 2014.

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