A Political, Security and Humanitarian Crisis: Northern Mali
This document discusses the recent security, political and humanitarian developments in northern Mali. A brief background on the Tuareg in northern Mali is given, followed by the provision of information on the relationship between various rebel groups operating in the region, their effects on the local population and current efforts to mitigate the growing security and humanitarian crisis. Related information is available at www.cimicweb.org. Hyperlinks to source material are highlighted in blue and underlined in the text.
History of the Tuareg in Northern Mali
Tuareg is a term used to identify a particular diverse group of people who share a common language and history within the Sahel. The Tuareg are semi-nomadic descendants of the Amazigh (commonly referred to as Berber) who live in northern Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Algeria, and Libya. They share the Tamasheq language but are divided by tribe and clan. Most Tuareg are Muslims belonging to the Maliki sect of Islam. Historically, the Tuareg were the leaders of the trans-Saharan trade using camel caravans to cross the Sahara. During the French colonial period, the French taxed the Tuareg’s trade, confiscated camels and land, and used many Tuareg as forced labourers. With the introduction of modern technology, many Tuareg gave up the nomadic life and settled into former trade cities. In Mali, Tuareg comprise about 10% of the population and are primarily found in the northern region that they call Azawad, which includes the regions of Timbuktu, Kidal, and Gao.