n Conflict Trends - Rethinking the Tuareg Factor in the Mali crisis

Volume 2013, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1561-9818


Mali has been a battleground for more than a year now. While the armed conflict came in the aftermath of the Libyan crisis that left the regional security environment depleted, it also served as a catalyst for the collapse of state authority in Mali. This created conditions conducive for the proliferation of, and attacks by, radical religious armed groups in the northern regions of the country including the Tuareg armed movement, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). But, far from being a new phenomenon, the Tuareg-led armed insurrection in the northern regions is as old as the post-colonial Malian state, and continues to pose tremendous challenges in West Africa and the Sahel region for both regional and extra-regional actors. Currently known as "the belt of insecurity", the Sahel region has been home to some of the longest armed conflicts in African history.

The recent crisis in the region is seen as one of the most serious since the end of the cold war, with anticipated dire long-term impacts on the security of the region and beyond. But while attention is predominantly focused on defeating the jihadist groups that have threatened the survival of the Malian state, one must not lose sight of the fact that the "Tuareg Factor" - as represented by the rebellion launched by the MNLA - remains serious, both in terms of appreciating the deterioration of the situation and attempting to frame long-lasting solutions. A critical concern is whether the image of victim, projected over the decades by some members of the Tuareg communities, still holds any relevance.

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