Tuareg rebels in Mali have recently launched a number of attacks on towns in the northern part of the country. Reuters and the AP have detailed accounts of the fighting, including some analysis of how the absence of Qadhafi (who was a key mediator in defusing past conflicts) is affecting the situation. The Washington Post reports on claims by Mali’s government – and denials by the rebels – that Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) is fighting alongside the rebels.
Let’s look more closely at the geography of the uprising. The rebels call themselves “National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad.” But what is Azawad? The AP explains:
The group was formed in October and seeks self-determination of the north of Mali, an area it refers to as the Azawad. Azawad can also refer to the Tuareg-speaking zone covering northern Mali, northern Niger and southern Algeria where many of the blue-turbaned nomads live, but NMLA leaders say their demands relate only to the area within Mali.
Wikipedia has more on (the geographically broader interpretation of) Azawad:
Azaouad, Azawad, or Azawagh is the collective non-officially recognized name for the main Tamashek-speaking parts of northern Mali, northern Niger, and part of southern Algeria. Azawad is mainly made up of Sahelian and Saharan vast flat lands inhabited by Tuareg nomads. It does not correspond to any single administrative region of Mali, Niger, or Algeria, but it includes portions of the Kidal Region of Mali and theTahoua Region and Agadez Region of Niger, and large portions of southern Algeria. Azawad has a strong and distinctive Tuareg character, different from the official identities and characters of the central governments of Mali, Niger, and Algeria. Azawad emerged recently as a geopolitical issue due to the recent separatist movement, the Mouvement Populaire pour la Libération de l’Azawad (MPLA), that aspires to establish an independent Azawad republic with a Tuareg idenitity.
This provides some introductory context for the map I’ve put together. Google Maps occasionally distorts the locations of some towns, but this map will hopefully give at least some idea of where the hotspots of fighting have been so far.
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They seem to be better organized this time around. Better equipped, too, but who will support them longer term without Qadafi?
Attack, withdraw, wait for army to bring in reinforcements, then attack again.
I heard many of those who died in Aguelhoc were Imghad touaregs?
This rebellion should have some sort of support, but not from Libya I guess. Who then? Algiers will not be sleeping over this, otherwise foreign forces will intervene and Algiers doesn’t want that. Whatever the reasons.
I read the outcome of the meeting of the Foreign Affairs in Nouakchott last week and fighting against AQIM under the auspices of Algiers is finished. Why? Because with the connection between AQIM and the rebellion is a problem: in trying to hit AQMI (which anyway Algeria never did outside its territory), Algeria will hit the Azawadi Touaregs and it can backifire on them as the ” Touareg” territory includes southern Algeria too and can be claimed later to be part of the Azawad Republic. Like Mauritania that can lose its part of Taoudeni, which has apparently some oil and gas …
Let’s be honest with ourselves.
Not all rebellions and insurgencies* have the backing foreign powers. Depending on who Algeria’s rivals are their character or opinions may discourage them from backing Taureg groups. I presume that the U.S official position is either backing Algeria or not having a position but I am relieved to not really hope for one side to have a major victory.
Anyway there is a black-out on what is going on between the Malian army and the Tuareg rebellion. Kinda worrying.
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Why sudden seek for self-determination? According to my knowledge, Mali has a culture of co-ethnic cooperation. Can it be said that this group is unpopular among the civilians and is acting only by relying on Libya?
When times are good and everyone’s getting a share of control they stay together. When times are bad and they’ve got memories of some over-romanticized past when they weren’t part of the system they start looking for alternatives. Additionally at least a significant portion of them appear to have come back from Libya after their patron lost power.
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