Mali: Multi-Sectoral Rapid Assessment Report - Timbuktu
On January 10, 2013, the armed groups in control of the North of Mali moved towards the south to conquer the strategic town of Konna. In response to the appeal by the Malian President, the French army has been intervening since January 11, 2013 (Operation Serval). Using air support from the French Army, the Malian army were able to regain Konna.
Following the French Intervention, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) began to deploy troops consisting of soldiers from Senegal, Niger, Togo, Benin, Burkina Faso and Nigeria. Chad equally participated in the operation. The intervention was initially designed to stop the progression of the armed groups to the south past Mopti, the de facto border between the north, under the control of the Islamists, and the south, controlled by the Malian governmental authorities. The Interim president of Mali, Dioncounda Traore, declared a state of emergency across the whole country on January 11 and called for a “general mobilization” to defend against the progress of the radical Islamists.
On January 16, ECOWAS regrouped at Bamako to start discussions to speed up the deployment of the International Mission for Mali Assistance (MISMA), the force authorized under resolution 2085 to support the Malian authorities.
On January 18, the Malian army regained control of Konna and Diabaly. Certain neighboring countries of Mali have taken precautionary measures – including closing or reinforcing the borders with Algeria and Niger.
The city of Timbuktu, following 10 months under the control of the Islamists was regained on January 28, 2013. The period under the control of Islamists was marked by disruption of public services (schools were closed, difficulty in maintaining minimal health services), the imposition of strict interpretation of Sharia Law by the fundamentalists (executions, amputations, wearing of the hijab/veil, banning of music), the recruitment of child soldiers, the reinforcement of ethnic tensions (Bambaras versus the Arabs/Touaregs).
The region of Timbuktu, an area of 497,926 KM2, represents 40% of the national territory and is the biggest region in Mali. It is divided into 5 districts: Timbuktu, Goundam, Gourma, Rharous, Niafunké and Diré. The main ethnicities are the Sonrhais (35%), the Tamasheq and Arabs (30%), the Peulhs (20%) and the Bambaras (15%). The main industries are agriculture, herding, fishing, trade and craft.
It is difficult to estimate the number of current inhabitants at the time of the evaluation due to the number of the displaced population, and the nomadic lifestyles of certain groups who are only occasionally in town. Some of outlying households are also inhabitants of Timbuktu city. The key informants interviewed during the evaluation estimated that the number of inhabitants of Timbuktu city is 60,000, and that 20% of the population (12,000 people) has left the area.