Collation personnelle d'articles et d'adresses trouvées sur le net pour effectuer des recherches

lundi 13 novembre 2006

Tifinagh, préserver la culture!

Voici l'article sur les Tifinagh.

Pour un peu introduire le sujet a nos amis qui ne
parlent pas bien l’anglais:

Il s’agit d’une priere, d’un appel pressant adresse a
tous ceux qui: parlent, apprennent, ou enseignent le
Tamazight et ses dialectes, d’intervenir, de prendre
position du bon cote, afin de mettre un terme a cette
mascarade. Nous ne savons plus aujourd’hui qui lutte
pour preserver notre culture, et qui la mine et oeuvre
pour sa destruction.

La langue Tamazight est parlee dans de nombreuses
regions d’Afrique du Nord et d’Afrique de l’Ouest, a
l’origine Tamazight est ecrite avec les Tifinagh.
Aujourd’hui cette langue est parlee sous forme de
dialectes plus ou moins rapproches et souvent
semblables. Cette immense pluralite (et non
diversite), fait la richesse de notre langue.

L’eloignement geographique entre les regions a amene
les habitants de certaines regions a utiliser d’autres
systemes d’ecritures: notemment l’ecriture arabe
introduite par des marabouts, et l’alphabet romain
utilise par les jeunes lettres (modernes) pour
trascrire notre langue. Entre l’etau constitue par le
Tamazight romanise, et le Tamazight a l’ecriture
arabe, il y une troisieme voie. Malgre que les
defenseurs des ces ecritures etrangeres s’accrochent
avec “bec et ongles” a leur maniere “importee” de
faire les choses, la troisieme option (celle des
Tifinagh) est de loin la plus vraisemblable. Car pour
les Tifinagh, il s’agit de plus que d’un choix. Il
s’agit de l’honneur, et l’honneur de tout un peuple
qui est l'enjeu. Les populations craignent que les
Tifinagh, ecriture des ancetres et fierte nationale
des Imazighan soient menaces par l’intrusion des
ecritures inconnues. Pour cela, la priere invoque les
differents acteurs de la scene culturelle, et les amis
de Tamazight, a avoir de la compassion pour ce peuple
meurtri (il faut bien le dire), et de preserver ce
tresor. Les Tifinagh cordon ombilical du peuple
Amazigh qui nous lie encore avec nos Izuran (racines)
meritent plus que cela. Les Tifinagh meritent d’etre
promus au rang qui est le leur, et d’etre declares par
tous les Imazighan, comme la seule et unique forme
valable d’ecriture en la langue Tamazight.

Si je m’engage dans cette longue plaidoirie, c’est
parceque au moment ou nous parlons, des gens essaient
(et ils sont serieux) de maintenir et meme d’enraciner
l’usage des formes d’ecritures arabe et romaine en
Tamazight au détriment des Tifinagh. Ce qui est
insense, et inacceptable.


Et voici l’article en anglais.

First of all, I would like to thank you all.

I also beg your pardon for not participating a lot in
the forum, this due to every day’s occupations.

I saw some articles on the net about the Tamazight
writing. It is and old and long discussed subject in
our contemporary society.


People do not agree on how to write our language and
what characters (letters) to choose. Will we use the
Roman alphabet, or the Arabic one, to write Tamazight?
This is the only real question asked here, and there
every time the discussing was engaged, instead of
talking seriously about Tifinagh. Even on kabyle.com,
the question is recurring: and the propositions are
exactly the same! I think that the important issue of
how to write Tamazight is a subject of collective
discussion, but at the same time it cannot give a
place for choice: personal or regional, no place for
demagogy or favoritism here. Because Tamazight does
not belong to someone, it is a whole, a commonwealth
(public good) that cannot be divided. Tamazight is a
civilization; it is one of Africa’s profound cultures.
We the daughters and the sons of Tamazgha have to be
proud of our Tutlayt. Tamazight is the life of people.
It is the past and the future of men and women that
live and breathe with it and for it.

The question instead will be how to preserve something
precious to us, something fragile that we have
currently in our hand? I am convinced that to save
Tamazight, we have to be with Tamazight, and not
against it. Even if it is a hard piece of labor, the
struggle for the survival of our culture is our
lifelong task we cannot escape. Here the question does
not contain a choice between one thing and another. It
is simply for our native Tawalt a matter of life and
death. To cope with this problem let's look around us:
what language, what culture has given up a part of
itself. In Asia for example, each group has kept its
symbols, its own way of doing things, and uses its
alphabet till now. What will have happened if the
Chinese, a people that have apparently a difficult way
of writing have abandoned their authentic alphabet?
How about the Indians, the Thais, and other peoples?

This problem exists only in Africa. Profoundly
affected by the impact of colonialism, our peoples use
more commonly the foreign languages than their owns.
E.g. French and English are spoken and taught
everywhere in Africa, instead of our native languages
and dialects that are nearer to our traditions and to
our real life. We have to keep as we can the lifestyle
inherited from our ancestors. If they used Tifinagh,
we will continue to perpetuate this tradition.

Our ancestors have in difficult times kept almost
intact all our heritage, or at least they allow us
today have a sense of common identity proper to our
nation. Today it is our turn, to lead the way. To take
our children and grandchildren to a better tomorrow,
to a future of peace and freedom only the knowledge
can forecast and then provide.

The issue of whether we will use the Tifinagh or throw
them away is as important as all the other issues
related to Tamazight language brought together.
Because the Tifinagh is the soul of Tamazight, writing
Tamazight with a foreign alphabet is not suitable, no
other writing system can replace Tifinagh, even
temporarily (for a time). Some propositions say: let
people learn Tamazight with Roman and/or Arabic
letters first; afterwards we will introduce the
Tifinagh. False! I will say. Because the day people
(Tamazight speakers) will be literate in another
alphabet, it will be difficult and uncertain to make
them accept a way of writing they (now) consider
strange and unfair. Most of them (the younger
generation) then, will never consider Tifinagh as
their own and (original) alphabet. What writing system
to use for Tamazight is a question to which even a
fetus can reply.

The Roman and the Arabic writing systems are foreign
to us, and have been foisted upon us. Respectively
brought by the Islamic “sheikhs” and early European
missionnaires. The Arabic was firstly introduced by
the “marabouts” confreres to study and teach religious
knowledge within their Islamic schools (Zawias) that
spread throughout Africa. The Roman alphabet came with
the first European missions: along with campaigns to
christianize the population. Afterwards came the
linguists and ethnologists who used the Roman
characters to write and facilitate the study of
Tamazight, at a time they knew little about the

The problem of using foreign characters for writing
Tamazight is already here, causing a great deal of
difficulties and provokes an amount of questions among
the local readers in each Tamazight-Speaking region.
Till now, the people who advocate the use of the roman
(French) letters, are a handful of intellectuals and
literates who went to the French school, and others
who live within our Diaspora in the western countries.
This class of people numerically inferior (little in
number), but have a more comfortable social position,
have little to do with the great majority of Imazighan
living in North Africa and West Africa, who live
almost all in rural areas, and have a lower
instruction level. On the other hand, the ones who
prefer Tamazight to be written in Arabic, are nearly
motivated by similar goals, they justify their
inconsistent argument by the wide use of the Arabic
language in North Africa. But from the Francophile and
the pro-Arab Amazigh intellectuals, there is a long
way to join the very many analphabet African

The problem has nothing to do with being against one
side or pro the other side. Here it is out of question
to give a concession to a camp or another, if we do
this it will be against the interest of Tamazight. In
the two cases, our friends ask the people to do the
job twice, but they want us do the same action many
times: (a man) will learn how to read three different
alphabets, in a long period, while using one and same
language. One will be a polyglot before he can read
and write his mother tongue (Tamazight) correctly. The
learning of three alphabets will be the only condition
to allow people from different regions communicate.
Currently a huge number of Imazighan cannot read
Arabic; an even greater number (the majority) cannot
read French. Another significant portion of population
are illiterate in all two foreign languages. Only a
small number naturally speak a Tamazight dialect and
write it with Tifinagh. This category of people is
unfortunately decreasing, due to lack of schooling
institutions. If on the official level Tamazight is
forbidden and fought, the private initiative can help.
Even individuals can do something, for example on the
family level. In the love of God one can teach his own
children at least! Even though the political will and
material means are dramatically lacking.

If we talk about teaching our children Tamazight, why
don't we do it directly, without a priori learning of
a foreign language? The learning of foreign languages
is a costly and long process. If people want to
continue studying French and Arabic, and English, they
can do it separately. We have nothing against the
study of foreign languages. Because it is knowledge,
and all knowledge is valuable and useful to us. Today,
if everyone who learns Tamazight is encouraged to do
it in Tifinagh, the number of illiterate will decrease
immediately. And will continue to drop.

The use of Tifinagh is a must. It is also a necessity.
It is a means to bring people together, to allow them
meet, and interact. And to allow the neighbor
understand the men living in his vicinity. To give the
young and the elder a common address where the
research findings on Tamazight converge. Instead of
striving in a “futile” operation, spending our energy
and time on improving, and adapting foreign alphabets
to Tamazight, let us concentrate our efforts on what
we have.

Now that we know the truth, why don’t we move a pace?

Nowadays people know how the world works, they
differentiate between things.

With Tifinagh, the child and the adult easily memorize
the letters. Writing is easy. The Tamazight text
written with its rediscovered (PC) fonts is full of
the aesthetic beauty, making from the whole a pleasant
way of reading.

Finally, people are sovereign, and,
Because people are eager to study their language, let
us give them the chance.

Respectfully yours,

Ta nimmert.


Amazigh: noun and adjective single masculine (Berber);
Tamazight: noun single feminine (Amazigh woman);
Imazighan: masculine plural; Timazighen: feminine
plural; Tamazgha: North Africa; Tawalt, Tutlayt:
language, Tawalt n Tamazight or Tutlayt n Tamazight:
Tamazight language; Tifinagh: Amazigh alphabet;
Izuran: roots.http://fr.groups.yahoo.com/group/touaregs/message/361?viscount=100

(extrait du livre de IWGIA – THE INDIGENOUS WORDL
2001-2002) pp. 353-363


The Tuareg are part of the indigenous Amazigh people
(generally known as 'Berbers') of North Africa. Their
traditional lands range over some 1.5 nimon sq. kms.
of the Central Sahara and Sahel (see rnap) - an area
roughly three times the size of France, their forrner
colordsing power. They now find themselves occupying
large traCtS3 of southern Algeria, northem Mah and
Niger, with smaller pockets in Libya, Burkina Faso and
Mauritartia. Their predse numbers are not known:
national censuses either ignore ethnic categones (as
in Algeria) or are of dubious accuracy (as in Niger
and Mah). Pubhshed figures range frorn 300,000 to 3
rràffion. The southern Tuareg of Niger and Mah
probably nurnber around one mllion and 675,000
respectively. The northern Tuare& who inhabit the
regions of Ahaggar and Tassih-n-Ajjer in Algeria
number sorne 25,000 (20,000 in Ahaggar; 5,000 in
Although the Tuare-,z never cornprised a single state
or political entity, the national boundaries, drawn
arbitrarily on a map in Paris, divide what was a
single cultural and socio-economic entity. While

generally described as nomadic pastoralists, the
traditional Tuareg économies of these regions were
both complex and fraigile, dependingin varying degrees
on controlling caravan trade, raid ng, animal hus
bandry (camels, goats, sheep and, in the south,
cattle) and forms of . slavery'. Nearly all Tuareg
groups maintained close socio-economic relations with
the agricultural communities around their margins,
notably with the peopies along the Niger River, the
millet-producing regions of southern Niger and the
oases of Touat and Tidikelt to the north of Ahaggar.
Indeed, the traditional economy of many of the Tuareg
of the Malian districts of Timbuktu, Gao and even
Kidal, can best be described as agro-pastoralism.

The recent histories of these Tuareg populations have
been heavily influenced by their respective colonial
expériences and, over the last forty or so years,
their very différent post-colonial histories.
In Algeria, at the time of Independence (1962), the
Tuareg (Kel Ahaggar and Kel Ajjer)' comprises some 50%
of the population of Ahaggar and Ajjer. Today they
comprise only 15%. This is partly because of the
migration into the region of Algen'ans escaping the
unrest and killing that swept much of the north of the
country during the 1990s. Since independence, most
Kel Ahaggar and Kel Ajjer have settled in the many
small villages and cultivation centres of Ahaggar and
Ajjer, as well as in the main town of Tamanrasset
(pop. c. 1 00,000). Current surveys indicate that
only about 3,000 Algerian Tuareg have managed to
retain their nomadic lifestyle. Although Algeria's
Tuareg comprise only 0. 1 % of the country's
population, their traditional lands cover about 20% of
national territory. Notwithstanding a few'ups and
downs', Algeria's Tuareg, compared to those of Mali
and Niger, have, however, been fairly well
accommodated and integrated into the postcolonial
State. 'Notwithstanding the préjudice expressed by
the state towards nomadism in its formative years,
Algeria's Tuareg have had full access to and benefit
from the services and institutions of the state,
especially in the fields of éducation, health care and
labour markets.
In contrast to Algeria, the recent history of the
Tuareg in both Niger and Mali has been dominated by
their rébellion against their respective governments.
The underlying causes of the rebellions in both
countries stem from a combination of deep-seated
economic and political marginalisation, the roots of
which are to bc found in the colonial era. Both
countries experienced a disastrous cycle of drought
from 1965 to 1990, with peak crises around 1973-74 and
again in 1984-85. In Mali, food aid destined for the
drought-devastated north was embezzled by senior army
officers, to be sold off abroad with the proceeds
being used to build and furnish luxurious villas,
known as “castres of drought" in Barnako. Similar
rnisappropriations occurr in Niger. The result of the
drought and the embezzlement of food relief was such
that many Tuareg were forced to abandon their
traditional pastoral base and to migrate within their
countries, or across the frontiers. In both
countries, the Tuareg were effectively excluded from
any forin of political incorporation into the
post-colonial state.
Amongst the Tuareg of Mali, grievances against the
government were fuelled by their mernories of their
earlier rébellion in 1962-64, which President Modibo
Keita crushed brutally with the help of
fighterbombers, before imposing a harsh rnilitary
Earlier issues of The Indigenous World 8 have given
summary accounts of the rebellions that bega-n in
1990. To remind readers of those events:

Brief outline of the Tuareg rebellions

Tuareg rebellions broke out almost simultaneously in
both Mali and Niger in May-june 1990, with attacks by
the Mouvement Populaire de l'Azaouad (MPA) 1 against
government outposts. The uprisings, which began in
Kidal and Menaka in Mali and at Tchin Tabaraden in
Niger, were spearheaded by Tuareg combatants known as
ishumar. This word is the berberisation of the French
word chômeur meaning “un-employed”. These were the
young men who, disillusioned by the répression of
their own govemments and forced by the droughts of the
1970s and 1980s to search further afield for means to
support their families, sought work elsewhere in North
Africa. Some went to Algeria but most finished up in
Libya where they received military training and came
under the influence of Islamic radicals and Colonel
Ghadafi's ideas of equality and révolution. Some were
incorporated into Libya's regular forces; more entered
the Libyan-sponsored 'Islamic Legion' and were
despatched as Islamic militants to Lebanon, Palestine
and Afghartistan. The collapse of the oil price in
1985 led to hundreds of Tuareg being dismissed from
the oil fields and returning home unemployed and
resentful. They were joined in the following year by
those released from Libya's armed forces after
Ghadafi's humiliating failure to annex Chad. Finally,
the dissolution of the Islan-dc legion and the Soviet
évacuation of Afghanistan led to a further wave of
unemployed and restless young men with considérable
mihtary expérience returning to their home areas.
Their Ghadafi-inspired ideas of equahty and justice
merely added to the further dislocation of traditional
After almost two years of rebedion, a Pacte National
was signed by the govemment of Mali and the MFUA
(Mouvement et Fronts Unifiés de lazaouad)"- the
various Tuareg and Arab groups who had taken up arms.
The agreement provided for a cessation of hostüities,
the return of displaced persons, the intégration of
ex-combatants into the army, better pohtical
représentation and a ten-year develo.pment plan for
the northem regions. Despite the signing of the pact,
hostifities continued and it was not until 1995 that
security conditions improved. The official end of the
armed conflict in Mali was marked by a ceremony at
Timbuktu in April 1996 at which 3,000 weapons,
surrendered by the warring militias, were publicly
burnt in a ceremony known as La Flamme de la Paix.
The numbers of people killed in the Mali rébellion is
not known. Atrocities, perpetrated mostly by the army
or local militia, occurred in both countries. Several
sources put the number of Tuareg killed in each
country at over a thousand.
Although the scale of the rébellion in Niger was
smaller than in Mali, it has taken longer to establish
the basis for peace. An agreement between the
government and the rebel coalition of the Organisation
de la Résistance Armée (ORA) was signed at Ouagadougou
in April 1995. This was followed by a Round Table
Conference at Tahoua, similar to the Round Table
Conference that preceded the 'Flame of Peace' ceremony
at Timbuktu. The aim of the conférence, attended by
the government, the ORA, traditional chiefs and the
donor community, was to mobilise resources for the
réhabilitation of the pastoral zones in the north of
the country and to develop a strategy for further
development, without which a durable réconciliation of
the warring parties could not be envisaged. Although
the mornentum of the peace agreernent,was kept going
through 1996, it was not until the end of 1997 that
the 'cantonment' of the ORA's combatants was
completed. Having rejected the Ouagadougou Accord,
peace was not negotiated with the Union des Forces de
la Résistance Armée (UFRA) and its three comportent
movements until 1998, with the last ex-rebel groups
not turning in their arms until june 2000 when a peace
ceremony, based on the principle of 'The Flame of
Peace', was held at Agades.
As in Mali, it is impossible to say how many people
were killed during the course of the Tuareg rébellion
in Niger. Not surprisingly, accounts of events differ
wildly. It is still unclear what happened on the
night of 71 May 1990 when Tuareg attacked Tchin
Tabaraden. Tuareg versions say that a srnall group of
unarmed ishumar occupied the gendarmerie as a protest
against the arrest of some of their fellows, and that
a guard was killed by his own weapon in the ensuing
squabble. Official accounts claim that three Tuareg
groups attacked the prison, the sous-préfecture,
gendarmerie and post office, resulting in six deaths.
What ha pened in the army's follow-up opérations is
still open to grave dispute. According to Tuareg
accounts, the Nigerian army, after pulverising Tchin
Tabaraden, went on the rampage through the Azaouagh
region wiping out every nomadic camp they could find.
Occupants were buried or burnt alive, or hacked to
pieces. At Tasara 24 people were hanged; at Tillia
adolescents were publicly executed; a dozen Tuareg
were killed at Maradi and hundreds more wiped out at
Tahoua. While the government admitted to 70 deaths,
international organisations placed the figure at
around 600. The Tuareg claim that at least 1,700 of
their number were butchered.

The Toubou revolt and massacre

Niger's rébellion was not limited to the Tuareg. In
1994 the Toubou of eastern Niger allied thernselves to
their traditional enernies, the Tuareg, and also
rebelled against the government. During 1997-98 the
army crushed the revolt, causing many Toubou to flee
to Nigeria for safety. The signing of a peace
agreernent between the rebel group, the Front
Démocratique Révolutionnaire (FDR), and the Niger
government at N'Djamena (Chad) in August 1998 might
have paved the way for their safe return. However,
fearful of returning home, they remained in Nigeria,
only to be rounded up in mid-October by a joint
mihtary opération involving Chad, Niger and Nigérian
forces. Some 950 refugees were captured and escorted
to the border where they were handed over to Niger
troops. The women and children were separated from
their husbands, who were not seen again. In January
1999, a mass grave containing 150 bodies was
discovered on the island of Boultoungoure, on Lake
Chad in the Diffa region. The Niger government denied
that there had been any killings in the region but, in
April 1999, the High Commissioner for the Restoration
of Peace confirmed the existence of the grave and the
bodies of the 150 men whose names were published by
the press.

The repatriation of refugees

While the number of people actually killed in the
rebellions in each country may have numbered no more
than one or two thousand, the effect of the rebellions
and the way in which they were crushed has been
devastating. The number of people who fled or were
uprooted in the course of the rebellions will never be
known precisely. The number who fled from Mali to
Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger is
estimated at 150,000, while an estimated 15-20,000
fled from Niger to Algeria and Burkina Faso. The
repatriation of these refugees has been a major
undertaking. It began with spontaneous returns in
1995 and ended in june 1999 with movements that were
almost entirely UNHCR assisted. The official UNHCR
returnee statistics for the period April 1995 to
November 1998 are as follows:

- ----------- - ------- - --- - - - -- ----
--------------------------------------- - ----------

Organised Facilitated Spontaneous Total
--------------- ------------- --------------------
--- --- - -------
Mauritania 18,656 21,041 4,015 43,712

Burkina Faso 4,710 16,375 2,877 23,962

Algeria 7,691 265 42,748 50,704

Niger 1,091 2,928 8,704 12,723

Senegal 679 0 0 679

Total 32,827 40,609 58,344 131,780
----------------- --

The total level of forced displacements in both
countries is likely to have been much higher. The
number of formerly uprooted persons residing in the
returnee sites assisted by the UNHCR programme in Mali
was estimated at 305,000. This amounts to 25% of the
total estimated population of northern Mali. If
persons uprooted by the Niger conflict are included,
then we are probably dealing with a figure approaching
half a million: that is approximately a quarter of the
entire estimated Tuareg population. It should also be
remembered that large numbers of Tuareg had already
moved into other areas of their own countries or
across frontiers, especially from both Mali and Niger
into Algeria, in their attempt to escape the
dévastation caused by the vicious cycle of drought.
Many of these Tuareg have not, and probably will
never, return to their original homes. Many Malian
and Nigerian Tuareg who crossed into Algeria either to
escape the devastation of drought or the conflict are
still to be found there, many of them having
intermarried with the local population.

The establishment of resettlement sites

Major steps towards the reconstruction of civilian
life in northern Mali have been achieved through the
UNHCR-funded returnee assistance programme, which was
implemented in collaboration with the World Food
Programme (WFP) and eleven NGO implementing partners.
The programme, which ran from 1995 to june 1999,
provided assistance to 638 returnee sites throughout
northern Mali. 287 wells were dug or rehabilitated,
123 boreholes drilled and numerous solar or diesel
water pumps installed. Food distributions and
foodfor-work programmes were organised and loans and
grants made available to large numbers of individuels
and local associations.
Evaluations of the programme have highlightecl a
number of successes and failures. The programme's
overall success has stemmed from two principle
factors: the decision to allow the sélection of
rehabilitation to be made by the returnees themselves
and the integrated community focus adopted by the
programme. The programme's shortcomings have been the
slow and inadéquate funding response from donors; its
decision not to support measures to help in the
rehabilitation of livestock for the pastoral
communities, thus favouring sedentarisation at the
expense of pastoralism, despite the fact that
pastoralism has been the traditional occupation of
many beneficiaries; and its short-term nature. Aware
of these shortcomings, UNHCR secured the coopération
of partners willing to continue the work. One such
partner, namely Programme Mali-Nord (PMN), funded by
the German Agency Gesellschaftfur technische
Zusammenerbeit (CTZ), which operates in the Timbuktu
region in a zone between the Niger river and the
Mauritanian border, has been immensely successful. By
contraste the areas of Kidal and Gourma-Rharous have
seen far less input from both the government and
development agencies. The Kidal Zone has fallen under
an IFAD-funded programme known as PSARK (Projet de
S&urité Alimentaire et des Revenus de la Zone de
Kidal) since as long ago as 1989. Regrettably the
project has achieved little, being bogged clown in
labyrinthine bureaucratie procédures that have
rendered it as part of the problem rather than part of
the solution.
UNHCR in Mali would have been wise to have followed
the example of Niger and appoint a consultant to
formulate proposals for multi-year development
projects covering the longer-term needs of vulnérable
communities, especially in regard to the
réhabilitation of livestock. However, the development
and implementation of such projects in Niger has been
hampered by the overthrow of democratic rule and the
continued widespread violation of human rights. In
1996, Ibrahim Baré Mainassara overthrew the elected
President Mahamane Ousmane. Three years later, in
April 1999, Mainassara was himself gunned clown by his
own presidential bodyguard in what Major Daouda Malam
Wànké, who took over the reins of power, described as
an 'unfortunate accident'. Although Wanké allowed
élections to be held in November 1999, leading to the
return of democratic rule in the personage of Mamadou
Tandja, human rights violations have continued. Most
serious is the incorporation in the new Constitution,
and affirmed by a new law in Parliament in January
2000, of an amnesty to the perpetrators of the human
rights violations that occurred in the coups of 1996
and 1999. The enshrinement of impunity in the new
Constitution means that no inquiry has been held into
the killing of President Mainassara, nor for that
matter into either the Toubou massacre on
Boultoungoure island or the Tchin Tabaraden massacre
of Tuareg in 1990. The result of the overthrow of
democratic rule and the violation of human rights was
that many international donors, including the French
government, suspended international aid to Niger - a
measure that further exacerbated the plight of Tuareg
returnees who, at that time, were being resettled in
the regions of Tahoua and Agades. Their situation
deteriorated further as a result of Mainassara's rule
coinciding with three consecutive years of drought.
If that was not enough, Niger's return to democracy at
the end of 1999 coincided with an even more severe
year of drought, reducing the 2000 harvest to almost
complete failure. This meant that some 3.5 to 4
million people, more than a third of the countrys
population, were facing severe famine by n-dd-2001.
The situation, made worse by delayed and inadéquate
international aid, saw entire populations being
displaced in the futile search for food. Much of the
country has undergone massive environmental
dégradation as hapless peasants have chopped down
trees to seU them as firewood and earn money. The
year's drought was reckoned to be as devastating as
that of 1984. Appeals for food aid led to a mere
26,000 tons of food being donated, mostly from
Nigeria. The year has also seen thousands of people
contracting and several hundred dying from a severe
epidemic of cerebro-spinal meningitis. However, good
rains began in june (2001) with above average and weR
distributed rainfall continuing through the crucial
sununer months until September. This means that -
2001-2002 will produce enough grain to leave only 16%
of the population (according to the Famine Early
Warning System) facing food insecurity in 2002. The
rains also brought extensive outbreaks of typhoid
fever, with hundreds of cases being reported to the
north of Agades.
The good rains of 2001-2002, said to be the heaviest
in forty years in Mali, brought heàvy flooding in
Bamako and elsewhere along the Niger. On the positive
side, however, Mali expects to produce surplus food
this year and is unlikely to recuire any food aid
between February 2002 and the next harvest in
September-October. The rains have also been a rare
blessing for pastoralists.
Mali's good harvest comes with a new President. The
charismatic ex-General Amadou Toumani Touré, the man
who once said 'only an idiot' would want to be Mali's
head of state, was confirmed as President on 23 May
2002 after two rounds of voting. Il He succeeds Alpha
Oumar Konaré who served two five-year terms
(1992-2002) after Touré, then head of the paratroop
battalion, had arrested the corrupt dictator, General
Moussa Traoré (1976-1991) and set up an interim
government to hold free élections. Konaré and Touré
have both played major roles in the country's
transition to democracy and in the successful
peace-making with the predominantly Tuareg rebel
movements. Touré's espousal of economic reform,
political openness and human rights forebodes well for
Mali's immédiate future.

The roles of Algeria and Libya

Notwithstanding her own political crisis of the last
decade, Algeria has played a major and ongoing role in
trying to resolve what has generally been referred to
in both Mali and Niger as the 'Tuareg problem' and so
bring peace and stability to the region. This role
has, of course, been one of enhghtened self-interest
but it stands in marked contrast to that of Libya's
Colonel Ghadafi who has been the single most
destabilisù-ig force throughout the Sahel and much of
the Central Sahara for some time.

A new era of banditry

There is a danger in seeing the withdrawal of UNHCR
support in 1999, the return to democratic rule in
Niger in 1999 and the 2002 élections in Mali, along
with the abundant rains of 2001, as marking some sort
of 'closure' to the story of the Tuareg rébellion.
The future stabilité and security of what are regarded
as traditional 'Tuareg areas' - northern Mali,
northern Niger and southern Algeria - have Most
certainly not been achieved. On the contrary, the
last three or four years, from about 1998, perhaps a
little earlier, have seen much of this zone,
especially the immense Azaouagh valley region that
extends south-westwards from Tamesna into the Kidal
and Menaka regions of Mali, becoming the focus of a
new form of banditry and the fulcrum for the future
political stabilité and security of this large corner
of Africa. Banditry in the region has not only
increased in the last decade or so as a result of the
return of the ishumar, the opportunities for smugghng
and the circulation of small arms throughout the
region but it has taken on a new form and scale since
the late 1990s with the arrival in the region of one
of Algeria's more colourful outlaws, a certain Mokhtar
Ben Mokhtar. A Metlilli Chaamba (not a Tuareg),
Mokhtar initially outlawed himself from the Algerian
state when, after a spell in Afghanistan (where he
reputedly lost an eye), he sought to revenge the death
of his brother who had been shot by police when caught
in a smuggling heist. By 1998 his "war against the
Algerian state" (not its peoples, he was careful to
point out) resulted in many of the roads in southern
Algeria, especially the main highway from In Salah to
Tamanrasset, being unsafe for travel unless protected
by military convoy. In the second half of 1998, his
small but well-armed band is reputed to have hijacked
365 4WD vehicles, mostly from the Algerian
gendarmerie, oil companies and other state
organisations. He is also said to have shot clown a
military aircraft. By 1999, Algeria's security forces
had gone on the offensive and effectively forced him
to hole up in the vast and little known Azaouagh
valley, where his presence (described as "terrorise
threats from dissident Tuaregs and GIA
fundamentalists') led to the cancellation in January
2000 of the Niger leg of the Paris-Dakar-Cairo rally.
With the strengthening of Algerian security, including
hot pursuit opérations by helicopter gunships across
Algeria's southern border, Mokhtar's activities have
moved increasingly from his professed war against the
Algerian state, to the management of large-scale
smuggling of cigarettes, armements, and the training
and provisioning of the GIA. 12 More dangerous to the
stabilité and security of the region than Mokh-tar's
own activities are the unknown number of 'copycats'
and associated networks that he has spawned, and the
attraction that his activities and reputedly
fundamentalist ideology offer to the many, mostly
unemployed young men of the region.
The reason why this sort of banditry has been able to
establish itself in this region is simply because the
'space was left open for them' by the failure of the
above-mentioned development agencies to establish
themselves in these areas. This failure stems from
both the UN's and other donor agencies' refusal to
fund the required level of security that neither Mali
or Niger have been able to provide.
The further development of this form of banditry, on
such a scale and over such an extensive geographical
area, is not only a major impediment to the future
social, political and economic development of much of
northern Mali and northern Niger, and therefore the
wellbeing of the Tuareg themselves, but it threatens
the stabilité and security of much of the Sahel and
Central Sahara.

Renewed political confidence and consciousness

In conclusion, it should be noted that the events
outlined in this article, most notably the Tuareg
rebellions in Niger and Mali and the subséquent mov
ement and displacement of individuel Tuareg families
and groups over the traditional Tuareg regions of
Algeria, Mali, Niger and beyond, are having profound
social and political implications, not the least of
which has been to activate long dormant social
(kinship, tribal, etc.) ties between regions that have
been transferred from the 'Tuareg domain' to 'national
domains" by arbitrary lines on a map. Heads have been
turned to what has been going on in each other's
countries. Access to new technologies, notably the
phone and Internet, along with an increased knowledge
and awareness of international conventions on human
and indigenous rights, is giving the peoples of these
regions renewed political confidence and
consciousness. In the summer of 2001, Algeria's
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika visited the south to be
greeted in Illizi and Djanet with a signed Ipetition"
deiéanding the removal from office of the wali, Il and
on the streets by à mixture of respect and ribald
chanting, the message of which was cuite clear: 'If he
(the North) didn't want the South to be part of
Algeria, he was just to let them know!' He noted the
mood and, on his return to Algiers, the wali was duly
dismissed. The northern Tuareg are once again looking
south, and the southern Tuareg are looking towards the


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