Marginalization of the Tuareg in Mali and Niger

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Distribution map of the Tuareg over 5 states (Libya, Algeria, Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso )
Map of French West Africa 1936

The marginalization of the Tuareg in the states of Mali and Niger describes the process of disregard or disregard up to and including the suppression of the interests of the Tuareg in the states of Mali and Niger . Since the colonial era, the Tuareg have been pushed to the edge of the dominant societies in the distribution areas. The measures of marginalization are expressed in complex conflicts.

These are historical and result mainly from the fact that a border runs through the affected countries, which separates the light-skinned Arabo - Berber Tuareg on the one hand and the sedentary, dark - skinned sub - Saharan people on the other. The Tuareg are oriented towards (semi) nomadic livelihoods and operate through animal husbandry. On the other hand, there are black African farming peoples who practice agriculture and live in Sahelian communities. They occupy management positions in the administrations of the communities and thus regulate regional affairs.

These fundamentally different concepts of life escalated regularly and culminated in several Tuareg rebellions. The first rebellion took place from 1961/62 to 1964. A second rebellion followed some time later , which lasted over half a decade, from 1990 to 1995. A third rebellion finally followed in the years from 2007 to 2009. Since March 2012, another uprising has broken out in Mali, the climax of which has been Azawad , a Tuareg state proclaimed on April 6, 2012.


Colonial times

Kaosen uprising 1917

Tuareg at the time of colonization (photo with unknown creation date)

Fundamental crises occurred over four decades from the 1950s to the 1990s. Marginalization processes against the Tuareg preceded these crises even earlier. They can be dated to colonial times . In 1913/14 in particular, catastrophic famines led to the first violent uprisings by the Tuareg against the then colonial power of France . Another milestone of the crisis is in 1917. In that year the so-called Kaosen uprising (also: Kaocen uprising) in Agadez failed . The term goes back to the Amenokal (highest Tuareg clan chief) from the Ikazkazan tribe , Ag Mohammed Wau Teguidda Kaocen (1880-1919). From 1916 he led the uprising in the Aïr Mountains , thus in northern Niger. In early 1919 he was caught and hanged by the local military in Murzuk . His most important colleague, the Sultan des Aïr , was also picked up in the Djado in May of the same year . He died under unexplained circumstances in Agadez prison less than a year later.

The uprising is considered to be one of the longest wars of resistance waged against colonialism, which was also excellently organized and carried out militarily. After the initial success of the Tuareg, who, for example , were able to conquer all the main towns around the Aïr Mountains - including strategically important ones such as Ingall and Assodé (near Timia ) - French forces gathered in Agadez in March 1917 to strike a devastating counter-attack. In the end, the French did not differentiate between insurgents or their helpers, but eliminated everyone who stood in their way. Towns like Timia were burned down, along with livelihoods, goods and animals were stolen. Public executions left around 130 victims. Numerous representatives of the aristocratic classes ( Imajars ) were killed in these clashes.

The Kaosen Rebellion marked a fundamental turning point in the history of the Tuareg, especially the Kel Ewey-Tuareg. With the defeat, the proud people realized that they were not in an alliance, but in a relationship of dependency with the French. The Tuareg perceive the loss of their independence and legal sovereignty as a “collective moral catastrophe” to this day. On the other hand, they benefited from the caravan trade between Aïr, Bilma and Hausaland . Since the French pacification meant that no more raids by the Tubu were to be feared, trade had relaxed significantly. The main beneficiary was the pasture farming in the Aïr, military protection was no longer necessary. This was particularly important in the times of the absence of the tribal men, because on their trade trips to Kano for remote grazing and back, they were often on the move for months.

Slave liberation

The liberation of the black slaves of the Tuareg, the Iklan, can also be traced back to the colonial administration . Since 1906, France believed that slavery was incompatible with the basic principles of the Federation of French Territories in West Africa. The slave liberation proved to be problematic, however, because it only further destabilized the Tuareg societies. Nobody took care of the herds and the grain industry, so supply bottlenecks arose.

The end of slavery laid the foundation for the social emancipation of the Iklan and significantly determined the further development of national history. Beyond the Tuareg revolts, the liberated population groups in recent history have found opportunities to increasingly determine and organize themselves in the context of democratization and decentralization, so that they could find a new social position.

Transitional periods up to the revolts

Even before the independence of the two states Niger and Mali, the Tuareg expected to be able to pursue new lifestyles due to the social upheavals, in particular the end of slavery. From 1944 onwards, the French government increasingly involved the African elites in its state affairs. This is how social, cultural and sporting organizations emerged, in Mali for example the “Amicale Sportive”, the “Société-Sportive Soudanaise”, or “Les Flamboyants”, where personalities like Mamadou Konaté, Modibo Keïta or Mamby Sidibé met to discuss politics to discuss. The first trade associations already existed, trade unions were now also founded, links between the new African educated elite and the rest of the population, such as the individual ethnic groups of the Tuareg. The decolonization projects that emerged after the Second World War were also seen as an opportunity. However, it was not until 1958 that Charles de Gaulle came to power again and implemented a constitutional amendment that provided for a referendum on the secession of African territories.

In 1958 the administrative change took place. The administrative tasks were delegated to African officials. The fact that the French left the field came as a surprise to the majority of the Tuareg insofar as they could hardly believe that an overpowering opponent - without reference to a military defeat - would actually withdraw. Such behavior was hardly compatible with one's own warrior tradition. This transition led the Tuareg into a political crisis, because they had to deal with the fact that those who had once ruled them had now seized power and were beginning to rule them, the Iklan.

Periods of crisis

André Bourgeot describes four elementary crises that favored the Tuareg uprisings in the two states of Mali and Niger. Sometimes the uprisings grew into rebellions. In terms of time, these can be summarized as follows: The first rebellion from the early 1960s was still in the context of the dissolution of colonial French Sudan . With the second rebellion, the Tuareg had primarily fought against oppression and marginalization. In addition, an essential aspect is the desire for autonomy. This concern was then primarily pursued with the third rebellion before the last survey so far broke out in 2012 . Significant for the extent of the unrest were and are circumstances which, despite development aid measures, increasingly worsened the economic and living conditions of the Tuareg, such as occupation, war, raids, plagues, price drops, droughts and hunger crises.

1st crisis (1950s)

Sahel - precipitation index: The precipitation-rich 1950s and 1960s and the dry 1970s and 1980s are easy to read

Up until the 1950s, the Tuareg in Niger, in the predominantly old dune areas, were able to practice pasture farming. They used the land as part of their nomadic subsistence economy . The 1950s and 1960s were characterized by abundant rainfall. Sedentary peasant groups, as well as the former Tuareg slaves (iklan), enormously expanded their rain- fed crops thanks to this favorable climate . This led to the displacement of the Tuareg from their best grazing grounds. The rain-fed farmers were supported by state subsidy programs, which were promoted from 1961 onwards by means of well construction projects and veterinary campaigns. As a result, the cattle herds grew; often overgrazing of the areas was the result. Basically, the land use rights provided for various restrictions, such as territorial limits. The 15th parallel should not then be penetrated northwards. These express ordinances were ignored, however, so that the Tuareg no longer had any refuge in Niger. This in turn resulted in increasingly violent conflicts because the interests were very different. The conflict over the economic and lifestyles of those involved in the dispute thus also had political dimensions. After Niger gained independence in 1960, the land rights were unilaterally granted for agriculture, which was tantamount to a decision against the way of life of the Tuareg.

Tuareg in Mali, 1974 - at the time of the catastrophic drought
Nigerien Targi
Map of the focal points of the 3rd Rebellion
Claimed by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), Azawad occupies the entire northeastern part of Mali.

2nd crisis (1960s)

The independence of the Sahel countries Mali and Niger fell in 1960. With the newly gained freedom of these states, the negative development for the Tuareg now intensified politically. The state power of these countries proceeded from now on from the black African population living in clear majority. The little confederate Tuareg found less and less attention in the power centers of the elite. The positions of the potentates were too distant . The Tuareg were also questioned about identity politics .

In addition to the ideological differences, economic reasons promoted the outbreak of the revolt of the 1960s. Laws were passed and supervisory brigades were formed to prevent logging and punish them with severe penalties. Mali also left the West African Monetary Union in 1962 and increased taxes, which reduced disposable income. The imported Malien franc was not convertible , which paralyzed foreign trade. The taxes on livestock were increased and their trading price artificially lowered in order to bring the exchange value into line with the isolated economy. The Tuareg's cattle trade thus succumbed. The terms of trade between imported salt and exported millet deteriorated. Trucks replaced the camels as a means of transport. Horticulture increasingly succumbed because the soil was exhausted. In the absence of a uniform representation of their interests and a lack of internal cohesion , the Tuareg were militarily, politically and logistically powerless to face the events.

3rd crisis (1970s / 1980s)

The next crisis in the 1970s and 1980s was triggered by catastrophic drought . The droughts of 1969–1974 and 1981–1985 (with the exception of 1913/14) are epochal because they lasted longer than the previous ones, triggered famines and only reached their climax at the end of the respective period than all living beings had in previous years were emaciated. The situation was exacerbated by the fact that the government had raised head and cattle taxes in previous years and continued to enforce them during the drought, which led to falling prices for cattle. The two droughts that became known in Europe and triggered relief measures (deliveries of oil, milk, sugar and tea as well as promoting horticulture) were appropriately named taimako (year of aid) and konjenktir (emergency) by the Kel Ewey-Tuareg . They caused massive livestock deaths, an unstable currency now also in Niger with a progressive loss of purchasing power and pronounced refugee migration . The Tuareg fled to the neighboring states of Algeria and Libya to the north of the Sahel and to Hausaland to the south. They also fled to the city centers of Mali and Niger. Famine ( Tamascheq : laz (hunger) ) broke out. Mass death and impoverishment followed. The dependence on international donation campaigns by various aid organizations was a consequence. Handyman and mercenary existence remained the only way out. On the border with Algeria, people earned money by smuggling products subsidized by the socialist government across the border and selling them on in Mali. In return, the Tuareg supplied southern Algerians with meat to compensate for their shortages. At the same time, the poor overall conditions formed the preliminary stage to mass unemployment . Many Tuaregs were driven to the military-instrumented refugee camps in Libya. Such refuges existed in Ubari , Ghat and Ghadames . Libya's head of state Muammar al-Gaddafi recruited mercenaries from the Tuareg who were deployed with the Tamil Tigers in war-trading areas such as Chad , Lebanon and Sri Lanka . The Western Saharan rebel organization POLISARIO also benefited from them . The combat experience gained benefited the rest of the Tuareg, the ishumar (the unemployed) , because in 1990 they formed the core of the Tuareg revolt .

4th crisis (from 1990s)

The end of the first of the two droughts coincided in 1974 with a coup d'état that brought about significant economic changes. Poll tax and livestock taxes were abolished because the boom in uranium exports ( COMINAK ) generated high profits and the state budget was restructured. With the beginning of the decline in uranium prices and the associated decline in uranium mining in the 1980s, market opportunities dwindled again and abolished taxes were gradually reintroduced. To this day, it is still the most important Nigerian market.

From the 1990s the Tuareg demanded political and institutional rights. It was about having a say. Underrepresented and pushed to the side by the one-party landscape of the dominant peoples, the Bambara in Mali and the Djerma in Niger, which had dominated since the late 1980s , the Tuareg rose up in what is known as the guest worker revolt . In Mali, the uprising began in 1990 when Tuareg separatists attacked government buildings around Gao , Mali. The Malian army resorted to retaliation, and a full-blown rebellion grew. At the same time, a rebellion began in Niger in 1990 as sporadic battles were initially staged in the Aïr Mountains, which were continued with increasing armed violence. In 1991 this led to the coup in Mali . In 1997/98, violent resistance from the Tuareg flared up again against the authorities of both states. Federalism, more autonomy and ultimately secession were called for . The Nigerien Movement for Justice (MNJ), founded at the beginning of 2007, took up the conflict issues of the 1990s again. Greater participation in uranium mining, comprehensive development programs and decentralization or federalism have been and are required.

Peace phases and renewed uprisings

Since 1996, the Tuareg rebel organizations have been offered successive peace treaties. Furthermore, the admission of Tuareg into the armies was assured. Government participation opportunities were promised. As part of the PROZOPAS project, international EU aid supported the targeted repatriation of 60,000 war and long-term drought migrants back to Niger. Regulated pasture management, self-administration and disaster preparedness were agreed. President Alpha Oumar Konaré granted the Tuareg in Mali decentralized administration in Kidal .

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (ICRC) and the Mali-North program operate rural regional development (schools, wells).

Since the Tuareg regard the peace agreements of 1994/1995 as poorly implemented, they are increasingly attacking the country's economic institutions. Iferouane was most recently the center of violence .

There is also rumbling again in Mali. Since the beginning of February 2012, the rebel group MNLA has been conquering cities and villages in northern Mali and getting serious about the secession issue. The military staged a coup in March, threatening to split the country. On April 6, 2012, the Tuareg rebels proclaimed Azawad , their own state , in northern Mali , which was not recognized internationally because it was feared that Islamists would take over power. Supporters of the military, who had put on a coup in March, used force on May 21, 2012 against the interim president Dioncounda Traoré, who was appointed through West African mediation. As a result, the conflict in northern Mali expanded .

During Opération Serval , Human Rights Watch reported on killings and human rights violations of Tuaregs by the Malian army in the city of Niono. By the end of January 2013, the Islamist groups from all major cities in the region had been pushed back.

See also


  • Thomas Krings : Sahelländer, WBG-Länderkunden, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft Darmstadt, 2006, ISBN 3-534-11860-X ( main source of the article )
  • Gerd Spittler : (1989), acting in a hunger crisis, Tuareg nomads and the great drought of 1984, Opladen (Westdeutscher Verlag), ISBN 3-531-11920-6
  • Gerd Spittler: Droughts, war and hunger crises among the Kel Ewey (1900–1985). Stuttgart: Franz Steiner, 1989 (monograph).
  • André Bourgeot: (1990), Les sociétés touarègues: de l'aristocratie à la Revolución. Etudes rurales. No. 120, pp. 129-162.
  • Georg Klute: (1990), The revolt of the guest workers. The disputes between the Tuareg and the government in Mali and Niger, sheets of the iz3w, No. 169, pp. 3–6.
  • Pierre Boilley: 1999: Les Touareg Kel Adagh. Dépendences et révoltes: du Soudan français au Mali contemporain: 8
  • Cheik Omar Diarrah: 1991: Vers la IIIe République du Mali. Paris: L'Harmattan
  • Pascal James Imperato: 1989: Mali. A search for direction. Dartmouth: Westview Press
  • Bram Posthumus. Niger: A Long History, a Brief Conflict, an Open Future, in Searching for Peace in Africa, European Center for Conflict Prevention (1999). ISBN 90-5727-033-1
  • Samuel Decalo: Historical Dictionary of Niger. Scarecrow Press, London and New Jersey (1979). ISBN 0810812290
  • Jolijn Geels: Niger. Bradt London and Globe Pequot, New York (2006). ISBN 1841621528 .
  • Anja Fischer (2012), Tuareg speech art: Interaction and sociability among Saharanomads, Reimer: Berlin

Web links


  1. Thomas Krings, Sahelländer, WBG-Länderkunden (see literature)
  2. ^ Rebel leader Najem in Mali A mercenary as public enemy number 1 (sü accessed on April 4, 2012
  3. Old-new desire for self-determination, Mali's rebels strive for a state of their own for the Tuareg, accessed on April 30, 2012
  4. a b c d Gerd Spittler, droughts, war and hunger crises, droughts and hunger crises , p. 43 ff. (See lit.)
  5. a b c d Gerd Spittler, Dürren, Krieg und Hungerkrisen, Der Kawsan-Krieg , p. 33 ff. (See lit.)
  6. Gerd Spittler, (1989b) (see literature)
  7. ^ Afrique occidentale française (AOF)
  8. which are repeatedly used in the literature in connection with the internal horizontal or vertical social organization of the Imuhar, are taken from a medieval state system and are not transferrable. (see Anja Fischer)
  9. Pierre Boilley, 1999: p. 216 f. (see literature)
  10. Imperato, 1989: p. 51 ff. (See literature)
  11. Diarrah, 1991: p. 32 (see literature)
  12. Pierre Boilley, 1999: p. 301 (see literature)
  13. Imperato, 1989: p. 60 (see literature)
  14. André Bourgeot (1990) (s. Literature)
  15. Nomads, settled people, cross-border commuters: The Sahara and its inhabitants are increasingly arousing the interest of modern research, as an international conference in Vienna shows.
  16. ↑ made emically understandable, it is better to speak of Ettebel , Tausit or Tegehe instead of confederation (see Anja Fischer)
  17. Imperato, 1989: p. 60 (see literature)
  18. Georg Klute 1990 (see literature)
  19. ^ Matthias Basedau and Benjamin Werner, New Tuareg Rebellion: The Niger in the "Conflict Trap"? ( Memento from January 19, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 505 kB)
  20. ^ Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, Regional Program Political Dialogue West Africa: The crisis in Mali is widening - President ATT relies on the politics of the strong hand in the Tuareg conflict
  21. Chaos in Mali, The West Ignores the New Tuareg State (, accessed on April 30, 2012
  22. ^ President in the palace beaten half to death in, accessed on May 22, 2012
  23. Human Rights Watch: Mali's Army Killing Civilians In Town Of Niono . The Huffington Post. 19 January 2013
  24. ^ Entry into the civil war: French troops fight in Mali
  25. Militant Islamists in Mali, Algeria, Mauritania and Niger (SPON, January 17, 2013)