Mali Struggle Against the Tuareg


As the nomadic Tuareg of northwest Africa initiated another rebellion, the Mali military started to respond, but soon turned on their own president, and removed him in a coup, claiming he was failing to give them the materiel they needed to succeed.

The important question arising from all this is not about the deposed president, or the military officers who conducted the coup, but rather the Tuareg. Just who are they, and what do they want?

The Tuareg of northern Mali have resisted authority on and off for nearly 100 years. In the colonial era, when France ruled Mali from Dakar, the French quashed an anti-colonial Tuareg uprising in 1916.

As the winds of change swept French colonial rule from Africa, Mali gained independence in 1960, and soon the new nation confronted what became known as the First Tuareg Rebellion (1962-64). As Tuareg, Berber, and Arab peoples in the Saharan region in the north demanded a separate state, Mali’s first president, Modibo Keita (1960-68), defeated them in a two-year struggle.

Following a 1968 junta, Keita was removed, and replaced by Lt. Moussa Traore, a dictator who kept the Tuareg under control for the next 22 years, until a Second Tuareg Rebellion (1990-95) erupted, triggering a second coup in 1991, that took out Traore.

Upon returning to free and fair elections in 1992, the people chose President Alpha Konare (1992-02), who ended the Second Tuareg uprising in 1995, and gained re-election in 1997 for another five-year term.

The 2002 elections were interesting, because Amadou Toumani Toure was selected, even though he had led the 1990 Tuareg Rebellion. After his re-election in 2007, he proved himself as an able leader of all of Mali, as his forces successfully subdued a Third Tuareg Rebellion (2007-09).

This year, however, as a Fourth Tuareg Rebellion (2012-) arose, the military lacked confidence in Toure, and took him out on the allegation he had denied them the supplies they needed to win.

In the short run, Toure should not be reinstated, even though he was removed by a coup, because he already served two terms over a 10-year period, and term limits should be applied in every democracy. Open elections for a successor should be conducted promptly.

In the long-run, the recurrent problem as to the Tuareg cannot be ignored, and their demand for a separate state must be resolved. Legally, they do not have a right to self-determination, as they would have had under external colonial rule. Their situation is like the attempted secession of South Carolina in 1861, when the U.S. government had every right to preserve the union. Since complete independence may not be granted, perhaps some kind of virtual self-rule may be the answer, through the creation of an autonomous government in the northwest. After roughly 100 years of resistance, it is certainly time to try something new.

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One Comment to “Mali Struggle Against the Tuareg”

  1. Thank you, Jeff! Again, you’ve educated us both thoughtfully & thoroughly.

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