Major declarations from two pertinent figures in Mali

Two key figures in Mali have made decisions that may alter the demographic structure of Mali.

The figures and their decisions

After a coup d’etat put Malian Captain Amadou Sanogo in power on March 21, the threat of sanctions from ECOWAS, the Economic Organization of West Africa, yielded a reversal in policy from Sanogo, who pledged to start handing power back to civilians before a midnight deadline.

On Sunday, Sanogo read a statement at a barracks near the capital of Bamako, ceding to the West African bloc’s demands, according to Reuters. “We are making the solemn commitment to re-establish, from today, the Malian constitution of February 25, 1992 and the institutions of the republic,” he said.

Meanwhile, former Malian army Colonel Elhaji Ag Gamou, a high ranking ethnically Tuareg officer, has redeclared his loyalty to the MNLA, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad. The declaration came after the MNLA seized three strategically important Northern Malian towns, Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu, in a series of critical claims beginning March 30.

The colonel declared his new loyalty in an announcement published on the MNLA website, and in a radio interview with France’s RFI.

“I appeal to all Azawadis to join and strengthen the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad in its struggle for independence,” the website published in French, “…as it remains today the only organization able to lift our people out of the abyss in whathas kept the Mali over 50 years.

 

View Mali & the MNLA in a larger map

The story of Colonel Ag Gamou’s importance is the story of the Tuareg people’s identity.

Tuareg society is hierarchical, and structured around a series of tribal clans. Ag Gamou is an Imghad Tuareg, a tier below the Ifoghas Tuareg, the historical ‘nobility’ in the Adagh des Ifoghas, the name given to the Kidal region during French colonial rule.

The Imghad were a subservient, “vassal” prior to French rule, and many Imghad Tuareg favoured the more egalitarian society that western Mali imposed in the north east after independence.

Mali is shaped like a bowtie, with tropical grasslands in the south, and arid dessert in the north. According to ThinkAfricaPress, a news organization that specializes in African coverage, the Sahara is completely alien to most southern Malians, and soldiers from the south have never been successful in defeating Tuareg fighters in their own environment.

In an attempt to specialize their forces for fighting against their Tuareg adversaries, the Malian army invited two senior officers from the north to train and operate their own militias; Major Colonel Abderahmane Ould Meydou, a northern Arab, is one of these chosen officers, Ag Gamou is the other.

The current situation in northern Mali is a first for Tuaregs, after a nearly 50 year struggle for independence from Mali began in 1963 with the end of French occupation.

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