11. Mai 2014 · Kommentare deaktiviert für „Tuareg Migration: Critical Component of Crisis in Sahel“ – migrationpolicy.org · Kategorien: Algerien, Mali, Sahara

Tuareg Migration: A Critical Component of Crisis in the Sahel

By Merise Jalali

Tuareg at the Festival au Desert near Timbuktu, Mali in 2012. For the Tuareg, continuous migration has always been a primary means of survival and an integral part of their culture.

The Tuareg or Touareg – a nomadic pastoralist group of Berber origin – have been enmeshed in a complicated struggle against the Malian state since January 2012, with their initial revolt paving the way for attacks by Islamist rebels. The resulting coup d’etat and occupation of northern Mali by the Tuareg and Islamist insurgents fighting for independence from the Malian government marked the latest in a series of long-simmering Tuareg conflicts with West African nations, with earlier eruptions of violence occurring in the early 1960s, the early and mid-1990s, and several years ago.

Generally, Tuareg grievances have revolved around autonomy, nationality, and movement, with some variation in Tuareg justification from one rebellion to the next. In many ways, migration is an integral component of these conflicts, which are further fueled by poverty and accentuated by drought.

The Tuareg have no country of their own but instead migrate throughout the western Sahel, crisscrossing the countries of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, Niger, and Mali.  Popular culture has romanticized the indigo-blue veiled Tuareg as outlaws, „Blue People,“ hommes de nulle part men from nowhere, and chevaliers du désert knights of the desert. The Tuareg are adherents of Islam, but retain some idiosyncratic practices, such as the traditional requirement that men – but not women – wear veils.

For the Tuareg, continuous migration – the constant, unrestricted movement for trade and agricultural purposes – always been a primary means of survival and an integral part of their culture. During and after French colonization, restricted freedom of movement contributed to severe economic difficulty and the formation of deep-seated antagonism toward certain state leaders.

The exact cause of the 2012 conflagration in Mali is disputed. Some scholars argue that limited access to arable land during and after the colonial period is the main cause of Tuareg discontent; others argue that the return of Tuareg to Mali from Libya – where they were lured for recruitment into Muammar Qaddafi’s militias and heavily armed upon the dictator’s downfall – constitute the primary factor; and still others blame the governments of Mali and Niger, whose creation upon the decolonization of West Africa signaled, from a Tuareg standpoint, a new form of colonization over the Tuareg by other African groups.

It is unlikely that these three reasons, even together, offer a complete account of the causes of Tuareg discontent and a push for separatism. Nevertheless, when taken together, they help delineate the principal causes of the conflict, and undoubtedly further illuminate the contours of this debate, which has increasingly gained international involvement. With the gradual withdrawal of French troops from Mali beginning in April 2013, various European and international bodies are stepping in to find a way to bring the crisis – which has caused widespread deaths, displacement, and food insecurity – to a close.This article explores the unique role that migration plays in shaping Tuareg grievances in the context of the revolt in Mali.

via Tuareg Migration: A Critical Component of Crisis in the Sahel | migrationpolicy.org.

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