Mali: Tuareg rebels agree to disarm

Some long-belated progress in the struggle of another stateless ethnicity left off the map in the colonial and post-colonial carve-ups. From Reuters, Feb. 21:

ALGIERS – The Malian government and Tuareg rebels agreed on Tuesday to start implementing an Algerian-brokered peace deal for the northeast desert region of Kidal, the Algerian official news agency APS said.

The agreement sets a timetable for disarmament of the rebels, who are seeking greater autonomy for the region, and follows an initial peace accord struck last July, the agency reported. No details as to dates about disarming were given.

The deal was signed in a ceremony in Algiers by Mali’s Territorial Administration Minister Kafougouna Kone and Ahmed Ag Bide of the rebel Democratic Alliance for Change.

Algeria’s ambassador to Mali Abdelkrim Ghrib said the accord set out terms for the 3,000 armed rebels to leave their positions in the mountains and lay down their weapons.

Ag Bide hailed the agreement and vowed to implement it, APS said.

“We have obtained guarantees from the government and we are supported by the presence of Algeria in the process of bringing the two parties closer,” the agency quoted him as saying.

Under the deal, an international donor forum will be held on March 23-24 in the Saharan trading town of Kidal, sponsored by European, African and Arab banks.

The light-skinned, nomadic Tuareg gunmen attacked army camps in Kidal in May 2006, looting vehicles and arms before retreating to mountains near the Algerian border, raising fears of a full-scale desert rebellion.

Malian Tuareg leaders launched revolts from Kidal in the 1960s and 1990s demanding greater freedom from a black African-dominated government.

Peace agreements after the 1990s rebellion went some way towards addressing Tuareg demands, with former fighters integrated into the army and Tuareg politicians winning more responsibility.

But under-investment and widespread unemployment have fuelled resentment in a region awash with arms where banditry is rife, largely beyond the control of a government sitting more than 1,000 km (600 miles) away in the capital Bamako.

We have problems with that “light-skinned” language. The Tuaregs would not appear “light-skinned” to white Americans or Europeans, and they consider themselves the indigenous people of North Africa—a region they call Tamazagh. This is a classic conflict of nations versus states—not a primarilly racial conflict.

See our last posts on the Sahel and the Tuareg struggle.