Rebels and extremist stories from northern Mali
During the French intervention, most extremists were dislocated but the local members of each group remained in Mali. Most of them were from Ansar Dine (an all-Malian group now known as
As long as the northern part of Mali is not occupied by armed troops, it will remain insecure and dangerous. This also means that Bamako and other large cities in the Sahel will stay insecure, because of their connections with the extremists.
A history of rebellion
The rebellions in northern Mali first started in the 1960s. Until the 1990s, they were necessary because there was no development in this part of the country. But, with the advent of democracy in 1992, the authorities tried to put money into many projects to improve the standard of living in the region by building roads, hospitals and schools and providing a safe water supply. In addition to those projects, the first democratic government of president Alpha Oumar Konaré tried to integrate minorities into government. Nowadays, there are no workplaces in Mali where you cannot find Tuaregs or Arabs. It was a good idea, but over time, Tuaregs in particular have come to think of it as a ’must’. In northern Mali, there are at least five ethnic groups: Songhaï (75%), Peuhls (18%), Tuaregs (5%) and Arabs (2%). But the Tuaregs and the Arabs have been most vocal.
The new rebellion which began on 23 May 2006 started as a movement of a few Tuareg people with limited communications with other ethnic groups, limited coherence and changing composition. This was reflected in the change in the organization’s name. At first it was called
About ten different ethnic divisions can be distinguished within the Tuaregs. During the crisis, each of these groups wanted a large share of power. And many decided to create new movements, resulting in MNLA and the
The arrival of extremists groups
In Mali, there are generally no religious conflicts. Muslims (who make up 95% of the population) and Christians live in harmony. Even in the predominantly Muslim north, there are Christian churches. In the northern part of the Kidal region, on the border between Mali and Algeria, the first extremist group – former members of the
During my stay in Tegharghar, in Kidal province near the border with Algeria, in 2005, I witnessed training camps, Madrassa (Koran schools) and tunnels. It appeared a very well organized system, with connections to the capital Bamako. I learnt how the extremist recruited people, fitted to their specific work needs. I also learnt that they had a deal with Djandjawids (fighters from Sudan), Al-Qaida, Ansar El Sharia, Saharaoui Democratic Republic fighters and the Boco Haram group. Boco Haram has nowhere to train in Nigeria. Thus, the group was permitted to train in the north of Mali, in exchange for reinforcing the extremists if they needed help. That is what happened in Kidal and Gao in February 2012, at the beginning of the most severe crisis.