– Tuareg rebels attack Malian military bases for first time since September 2007
– Peace talks have failed to resolve disputes
– Further attacks likely in the near to mid-term
For the first time since September 2007, a Malian Tuareg rebel group has launched attacks against Malian soldiers. The first sign of hostilities were landmine attacks on March 19 and 20. The Tuareg rebellion, lead by Ibrahim Ag Bahanga and calling itself the Northern Mali Tuareg Alliance for Change (ATNMC), has also been involved in several other attacks in the past two weeks, including an attack on a military patrol that injured four Malian soldiers and attacks on two military bases. ANTMC forces kidnapped 30 soldiers after one of the landmine attacks. The soldiers are still held by the ANTMC.
Roots of the Rebellion
Tuaregs are a light skinned, nomadic group that is predominately Muslim. Comprising sizeable minorities in Mali and, they have historically been disenfranchised. Following rebellions in both countries in the early 1990s, peace agreements were reached to increase representation and development in the Tuareg-dominated regions. Claiming the government had failed to fulfill the agreements, Malian Tuaregs launched a rebellion in 2006 that ended in a second peace agreement. A further Malian Tuareg rebellion was launched in August 2007, which ended in a tentative peace agreement in mid-September 2007. Further exacerbating the situation, foreign companies have extracted natural resources from the areas with the profits directed to the central governments.
Niger Tuareg Rebellion
The Niger Movement or Justice (MNJ), a Nigerien Tuareg group also claiming the government had failed to improve the situation in Tuareg areas, launched a rebellion in February 2007 (Previous Report), which remains ongoing. The MNJ has previously denied links to the ANTMC, including the August 2007 uprising. However, it is likely the groups communicate, due to shared causes and geographical proximity. Further, the ANTMC rebellion has included tactics not seen in previous Malian Tuareg uprisings. In addition to the typical guerrilla-style ambushes of Malian troops, the ANTMC has kidnapped Malian soldiers and using landmines. Both new tactics have been employed by the MNJ in Niger over the past year, further increasing the likelihood that the groups have ties.
Since becoming a multiparty democracy in the 1990s, Mali has made significant efforts to be inclusive to all minority groups and to resolve situations peacefully. As such, the government almost immediately began diplomatic efforts to resolve the latest Tuareg uprising. Talks were scheduled for last week in Libya between senior government and military officials from Mali and representatives from the ANTMC. The talks have thus far failed to produce any results.
With Niger and Mali among the poorest countries in the world, it is unlikely the governments will be able to fully address the grievances of the Tuareg rebel groups in the mid to long-term. While the governments have chosen different methods to deal with the issue, the Nigerien government has vowed to crush the rebellion while the Malian government is seeking negotiations; it is unlikely the cause of the rebellion will be addressed. As such, further attacks by the ANTMC will continue in the near to mid-term. Even if a peace agreement is reached between the ANTMC and the Malian government, it is likely to be temporary, similar to the September 2007 agreement.