Tuareg Rebellion (2007–present)

Tuareg Rebellion (2007–present)

Infobox Military Conflict
conflict=Second Tuareg Rebellion

caption=Map of attacks
date=February 2007 - present
place=Northern Niger and Northeast Mali
combatant2=Niger Movement for Justiceand various splinter factions of the rebel groups

May 23rd ADC Group
commander1=Niger: Mamadou Ousseini, Army Chief of StaffMali:
commander2=Niger: Aghaly ag AlamboMali: Ibrahim Bahanga
strength1=Niger: 4000 to 12000 [See Military of Niger. 12000 total forces, 4000 reported deployed to areas of fighting, [http://www.cbf.fr/article_leger.php3?id_article=807 Dominique Derda. La révolte des hommes bleus] . Le Nouvel Observateur. 26 July 2007.] Mali:
strength2= Niger: 500-2000Mali: Unknown
~70 [http://www.stuff.co.nz/4624630a12.html Gunmen attack Mali outpost, seize soldiers, weapons - New Zealand's source for World News on Stuff.co.nz ] ] -159 [High figure comes from MNJ communiques (as of 1 July 2008). No Niger Government figures have been given. See [http://tuaregcultureandnews.blogspot.com/2007_12_25_archive.html tuaregcultureandnews summaries of MNJ communiques] and the originals at [http://m-n-j.blogspot.com/ http://m-n-j.blogspot.com/] .] killed
100+ captured [As of January 21 attack, estimation from MNJ Communiques and press, have been barred from reporting in N. Niger.]
1 killedFact|date=July 2008
casualties2=~200 killed
casualties3=Civilian casualties:at least 10 Malian [ [http://English.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/B688AE98-3CE8-4D21-B3E6-9A689F3FAE9A.htm English.aljazeera.net] ] , 10 - hundreds of Nigerien civilians killed [ In the period September 2007 - January 2008 press have been barred from reporting in N. Niger. Rebels claim hundreds of civilians have been killed.]

The Second Tuareg Rebellion is an uprising that began in February 2007 in part of the Sahara desert which is home to some of the world's largest uranium deposits. It was started in Niger by the Tuareg group Niger Movement for Justice (MNJ) which aims for greater economic development and a share in the region's mineral wealth, as they proclaim. The group came to international attention after they launched attacks against government and foreign interests in northern Niger.

September 2007 saw a shift in fighting to Mali, with a portion of the Tuareg groups which had come under a 2006 cease fire returning to combat. A swift Malian military response, coupled with the diplomatic intervention of other Malian Tuaregs, led to a return to an unofficial ceasefire in December 2007. In April, with the help of Libya, a ceasefire was declared, quickly followed by tit for tat attacks. Resumed diplomatic and military pressure, with the intervention of Algerian diplomacy, brought what appeared to be a final reintegration of the Malian rebel factions in July 2008, along much the same lines of the 2006 peace plan.

In Niger, fighting flared after a Ramadan truce, with landmine attacks and incursions reaching areas in the south and center of the nation previously unaffected. The Nigerien government, rejecting any negotiations, pursued a crackdown on rebel forces and declared a state of emergency in the north which by December 2007 threatened to spark a humanitarian crisis. High profile arrests of domestic and foreign media, the expulsion of European NGOs from the area, and the reported human rights practices of the Nigerien Armed Forces in the Agadez Region have led to criticism of the Nigerien government abroad, and continued fighting in the north. Despite government military victories in early 2008, and condemnation for a hostage seizure and landmine attacks (for which the rebels deny responsibility), the MNJ appeared no closer to either defeat or overthrow of the Nigerien government as the 2008 rainy season approached in August 2008. The Niger based rebels have pursued a strategy of expanding the ethnic makeup of their forces, and have attempted (with little success in the south) to broaden the insurgency into a social movement to replace the current government and provide the population with a share in Niger's growing mining sector.

Causes of conflict


Niger rebels say their government has failed to honor a 1995 peace deal, which ended the 1990s Tuareg insurgency and promised them a bigger share of the region's mineral wealth. [ [http://www.voanews.com/English/2007-08-21-voa37.cfm Rebels in Niger Threaten More Attacks] . Phuong Tran, Voice of America: 21 August 2007.] Nigerien Tuareg leaders and some Non Government Organizations have claimed the violence of February 2007 was the culmination of widespread disaffection amongst Tuareg ex-combatants with the slow progress of promised benefits, lack of functioning democratic institutions, and a perceived special status given to foreign mining interests and southern political leaders. [ [http://www.jeuneafrique.com/pays/niger/article_depeche.asp?art_cle=AFP30907lacriedsdro0 La crise touareg due à "l'échec" des accords de 1995] . Agence France Presse: 25 August, 2007.]

As part of an initiative started under a 1991 national conference, the peace accords of 15 April 1995 with all Tuareg (and some Toubou) rebel groups were negotiated with Government of Niger in Ouagadougou, the final armed group signing up in 1998. The peace deal repatriating thousands of refugees and fighters, mostly from camps across the Libyan border. Large numbers of fighters were integrated into the Nigerien Armed Forces and, with French assistance, help others return to a productive civilian life. Controversy continued to revolve around Tuareg leaders brought into government, with the arrest of the Minister of Tourism Rhissa ag Boula in February 2004 and his March 2005 release after being held in jail for more than a year on suspicion of involvement in a political murder [ [http://www.ifpri.org/2020africaconference/program/day1summaries/elbeltagy.pdf Security and Insecurity in North Africa] Jeremy Keenan (2006) Security and Insecurity in North Africa. Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE) No. 108: 280-281] , while Mano Dayak, a Tuareg leader and negotiator who led the Tuareg rebellion in the Tenere region died in a suspicious plane crash in 1995. Niger's Tuaregs continued to watch closely the development and economic activities of the government, especially in regards the Aïr Mountains' burgeoning tourist trade, and Arlit's recovering uranium industry. By the year 2000, sporadic banditry and attacks, ascribed to disaffected ex-combatants began in the north. In 2007, a unified force of ex-combatants repudiated the 1995 accords as the MNJ.The Niger Movement for Justice ("Mouvement des Nigériens pour la justice", MNJ) is led by Aghaly ag Alambo, a former member of the "Front de libération de l’Aïr et de l’Azawagh (FLAA)", and Mohamed Acharif, a former Capitan in the Nigerien Armed Forces who defected to the rebels in May 2007. [ [http://www.apanews.net/apa.php?page=show_article&id_article=33894 Six éléments des Forces Armées nigériennes rejoignent les rebelles au Nord] . APA, 24 May 2007.]

Little evidence of the motivation or make up of the Niger-based rebels was public by the summer of 2007 outside of the statements of the MNJ and the Nigerien government. The government of Niger claimed these attacks were the work of small scale "bandits" and drug-trafficking gangs, and has also suggested "foreign interests" (or Areva, specifically) were funding the rebel forces. [ [http://fistfulofeuros.net/afoe/Europe-and-the-world/next-up-northern-niger Next Up: Northern Niger] . Alex Harrowell: 6 August 2007.] Three newspapers in Niger which speculated that Libya might be behind the rebel group were threatened with legal action by the Libyan government. [http://www.temoust.org/spip.php?article3139 Point Afrique cancels tour flights.] AFP: 31 Aug 2007.] On the other hand, the MNJ statements portray their movement as Niger wide (as opposed to Tuareg nationalism) and limited to the demand for economic, political and environmental reforms. [ [http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=72223 Niger: New Touareg rebel group speaks out] . United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN): 17 May 2007.]

Broadening Niger demands

On December 21, 2007, the political secretary of the MNJ, Ahmed Akoli, outlined its demands as [ [http://www.temoust.org/spip.php?article4071 Le MNJ milite pour l’avènement d’un Niger uni dans lequel chaque citoyen trouve tous les jours des raisons d’être fier de son pays] Interview with Ahmed Akoli (political secretary of the MNJ), Temoust, December 21, 2007] [ [http://tuaregcultureandnews.blogspot.com/ Ahmed Akoli (MNJ) - Exclusive Temoust Interview] English translation, Tuareg Culture and News. December 22, 2007. Quote in full is:"(1) The marginalization of Tuareg people must end; the government of Niger must support the diversity of its citizens; decentralization must be accelerated; Tuaregs must be recruited into the military and incorporated into governance so as to achieve ethnic balance; (2) the state's scarce resources must be more evenly allocated so as to permit Tuaregs to establish effective socio-economic infrastructures in Tuareg regions; in particular, revenues from the uranium mining activities in Tuareg regions must be used primarily for economic growth in both Tuareg regions and the rest of Niger; and (3) security in the North should be focused on protection from outside threats; the armed forces in Tuareg regions in the North should be recruited from the Tuareg population, so that it will be viewed by the Tuaregs as an extension of society, and not an army consisting mainly of members of other ethnic clans who serve their own purposes, and who do not identify with the Tuareg people."] decentralization and "ethnic balance", a greater share and transparency in the extraction of northern resources, with government and military in the north "recruited from the Tuareg population... and not an army consisting mainly of members of other ethnic clans who serve their own purposes, and who do not identify with the Tuareg people". This seemed to step back from the previous demands for the removal of the current government.


Agaly Alambo, from Iferouane in northern Niger, was apparently inspired by the Mali based Tuareg group "May 23, 2006 Democratic Alliance for Change"("Mai 23, 2006 Alliance démocratique pour le changement - ADC)", ex-combatants who led a short campaign in the north of Mali from May to July 2006, when they signed a peace deal with the Bamako government. [ [http://www.jeuneafrique.com/pays/niger/article_jeune_afrique.asp?art_cle=LIN15077jusqunoille0 Jusqu?où ira la rébellion?] Jeune Afrique: 15 July 2007.]

Malian Tuareg insurgents have taken part in a long series of peace processes, splintering, and raids. The peace deals which ended the 1990s Tuareg insurgency in Mali created a new self-governing region, Kidal Region, and provided opportunities for Malian Tuaregs to join the central government in Bamako. Unlike the Niger ex-combatants who appeared successfully integrated into national the Nigerien Armed Forces, small numbers of Malian Tuaregs remained restive, complaining of the Kidal region's poverty, some involved in cross border smuggling and crime which is endemic in the region. A splinter faction of the Tuareg ex-combatants rose as the ADC in 2006. After returning to ceasefire, these forces apparently splintered further in 2007. [ [http://www.apanews.net/apa.php?id_article=35321&page=conflits_article Mali : Peut-être la fin d?un conflit larvé de dix mois appelé rébellion touarègue] . APA, 14 Jun 2007.]

Attacks in the extreme northeast of Mali began to grow in number and intensity in August 2007, as reports appeared that the ADC splinter group, led by former combatant Ibrahim Ag Bahanga claiming these attacks had formally confederated with the Niger based MNJ. [ [http://rfi.fr/actufr/articles/093/article_55966.asp Pour Bamako, le MNJ et les rebelles du nord ont partie liée] . Radio France International, 2 September 2007.] The MNJ formally denied this, but witnesses of one kidnapping attack in Mali said the rebels had moved back towards the Niger border. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/Africa/6966754.stm Tuareg conflict spreads to Mali. BBC: 28 August 2007.] ] Former Malian rebel leaders, notably the 1990s commander Lyad Ag Ghaly, denounced the 2007 violence and called on the Bahanga group to cease their attacks and offered to negotiate on behalf of the Bamako government. [ [http://rfi.fr/actufr/articles/093/article_55930.asp Confusion chez les anciens rebelles touaregs.] Radio France International, 1 September 2007. [http://rfi.fr/actufr/articles/093/article_56014.asp La peur de la scission] . Radio France International, 3 September 2007.]

Niger 2007

Niger February - July 2007

After the February 2007 attack on a Nigerian Army detachment in the north of the country (killing 3 soldiers), sporadic attacks have occurred around Iférouane, Arlit and Ingall. On April 18, the MNJ was formally announced, and attacks picked up in June and July. Landmines on the road between Iférouane and Arlit cut off both towns and threatened the bring the lucrative uranium mining industry to a halt. [http://www.jeuneafrique.com/pays/niger/article_depeche.asp?art_cle=AFP11917ifroustnati0 Iférouane, prise en étau, se vide de ses habitants] . Agence France Presse: 27 August, 2007.] Between 18 and 22 June, Niger experienced the most daring and deadliest attacks to that point in the conflict. MNJ rebels attacked the airport at Agadez, the second most important in the country and a center of Niger's tourism industry, though they did little damage. On 22 June rebels attacked an isolated army post at Tazerzait, killing 15 soldiers and taking 70 hostages. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/Africa/6232390.stm Rebels attack army base in Niger. BBC: 22 June, 2007.] ]

Niger: Uranium Mines Crises

Uranium and tourism generate most of what wealth comes to northern Niger. While tourism has been threatened by the insurgency, uranium mining, which accounts for 16 percent of Niger's GDP and 72 percent of national export proceeds, is at the very center of the conflict.

In October 2006, Tuareg leader Boutali Tchiwerin issued a statement condemning the ecological impact and lack of jobs from the Arlit based mining industry. The MNJ has echoed these statements repeatedly, and attacked the power station for a mining facility near Arlit in April 2007. In June 2007, land mines were laid on the main route the uranium ore from Arlit takes to the ports of Benin. All of Arlit's ore is processed and transported by a French company Areva NC, a holding of the Areva group, itself a state owned operation of the French "Commissariat à l'énergie atomique" (CEA). The system of French nuclear power generation, as well as the French nuclear weapons program, is dependent on uranium mined at Arlit. [ [http://www.acdis.uiuc.edu/research/OPs/Pederson/html/contents/sect2.html France and Nuclear Energy] and [http://www.acdis.uiuc.edu/research/OPs/Pederson/html/contents/sect7.html French Involvement in Niger] , both from Pederson, Nicholas R. The French Desire for Uranium and its Effects on French Foreign Policy in Africa. Arms Control, Disarmament, and International Security: Occasional Papers. PED:1. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (2000)]

In June and July 2007, the head of Areva's Niger operations Dominique Pin and his security chief Gilles Denamur (who is a retired colonel in the French Army and former military attache to the French embassy in Niger) came into the spotlight. Pin admitted the April attacks had caused them to cease operations for a month, and his security chief has said that mines prevented ore shipments. The MNJ, on the other hand, has said that the government has been laying Chinese made landmines throughout the region.

This is significant because the government of Niger has concluded a deal with a Chinese state owned company China Nuclear International Uranium Corporation (SinoU) to begin mining at Teguida, in the midst of the Tuareg winter pastureing lands and the fall Cure Salee festival at Ingall. The government expects a greater share of the proceeds of these new mines than it has received from the Arlit operations dominated by the former colonial power. [ [http://www.mineweb.net/mineweb/view/mineweb/en/page38?oid=24429&sn=Detail Niger looking to China to break French control of uranium mining sector] . Abdoulaye Massalatchi, Reuters: 1 August 2007.] More than a dozen prospecting contracts have been offered to companies from Canada and Europe as well, and there are also worries amongst the French that the Arlit mines, nearing the end of their useful life, must soon be replaced by new concessions. Areva has begun work on a new mine outside Arlit, but even prior to this conflict, it was not expected to be operational for a number of years.

On 6 July an official from Sino-U was kidnapped by the rebels, but later released, and all work at Teguida has stopped. [ [http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/industry/Chinese_executive_kidnapped_in_Niger-090707.shtml Nuclear executive kidnapped in Niger] . Xinhua: 7 July 2007.] Throughout July, the Niger government and Areva came into direct conflict, each accusing the other of supporting the rebels. The French state broadcaster RFI was ejected from the country for a month on 19 July 2007, and in short succession both Pin and Denamur were ordered to leave Niger. On 1 August, the Niamey government announced it would end all contracts with Areva, and bring in the Chinese to manage the existing operations. High level French diplomats flew to Niger and brokered a climb down, in which the Areva contracts would be extended in exchange for greater French aid to Niamey. [ [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L04331253.htm France sees Areva progress, offers Niger mine aid] . Abdoulaye Massalatchi, Reuters: 4 August 2007.] The French paper Le Monde expressed doubts about this deal, calling it "Expensive uranium." [ [http://www.lemonde.fr/web/article/0,1-0@2-3232,36-941865,0.html Cher uranium] . Le Monde: August 4, 2007. ( [http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/080707G.shtml English Translation] )]

Niger: Growing violence August - September 2007

While the situation calmed diplomatically, the attacks by the MNJ escalated and ebbed unpredictably. Iférouane, on the western cusp of the Aïr Mountains, and a center of both Tuareg culture and tourist visits had up to 80 percent of its population moved south by the government in August. The MNJ and the government promised safe access to refugees and aid, and on 4 August, Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi brokered the release of soldiers kidnapped by the MNJ, and the situation appeared to be calming.

Despite that hopeful sign, it appeared that the tourist center of Agadez (well to the southeast of Arlit) could be empty during the fall/winter 2007 tourist season. [ [http://www.apanews.net/apa.php?page=show_article&id_article=40291 Les Nigériens apprécient diversement l'état de mise en demeure décrété à Agadez par Tandja] . APA-Niamey: 25 August, 2007.] On 30 August, the largest tourist air carrier running flights from Europe to Agadez announced it would suspend flights for the 2007 tourist season, and the MNJ released a communique saying the Tuareg Cure Salee festival, which draws increasing numbers of foreign tourists, should be canceled. [ [http://m-n-j.blogspot.com/ The Niger Movement for Justice (Mouvement des Nigériens pour la justice, MNJ) Press site] ]

On August 24, 2007 Niger's president Mamadou Tandja declared a state of alert in the Agadez Region, giving the security forces extra powers to fight the insurgency. This marks only the third such declaration in the history of the Republic. [ [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L25721238.htm Niger seeks help from Sudan, Libya against rebels] . Abdoulaye Massalatchi, Reuters: 25 Aug 2007.] It was unclear by late September whether Northern Niger was seeing a lessening of violence as part of negotiations with the MNJ, or if new of violence was simply being suppressed. Organisations such as the Committee to Protect Journalists have reported the arrest without trial of over 100 northerners in the wake of the August 24th declaration, including those who tried to lead a peace march in Agadez. In July, the only daily paper in Agadez was shut down by the government for publishing news of the rebellion, and Bamako based journalists have been similarly threatened. Domestic human rights groups claim there has been an effort to keep foreign journalists from reporting on the crisis in Niger, [ [http://www.wtop.com/?nid=387&sid=1199390 Niger Gov't Tries to Contain Rebel News] , HEIDI VOGTAssociated Press, 25 July 2007.] and this could account for the seeming shift of rebel violence to Mali. [ [http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=74352 NIGER: Dozens arrested in north as critics targeted] . IRIN 18 September 2007.

[http://www.cpj.org/news/2007/Africa/niger30aug07na.html In Niger, government bans live broadcasts on Tuareg rebellion] . Committee to Protect Journalists. http://www.cpj.org, August 30, 2007.

[http://www.cpj.org/news/2007/Africa/niger13july07na.html NIGER: Government cracks down on coverage of rebel attacks] . Committee to Protect Journalists. http://www.cpj.org, July 13, 2007.]

Military defections

By August 2007 the MNJ claimed defections from the army had increased their numbers to over 2000 fighters. Some sources claim that defections included the entire "Niger Rapid Intervention Company", a special forces unit trained by the United States Military to conduct anti-terrorist operations in 2003-2006. [ [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2004/10/mil-041007-irin02.htm NIGER: Five killed as army clashes with Tuaregs in desert north] . United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs - Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN): 7 October 2004. [http://www.defenselink.mil/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=15215 American Forces Train Nigerien Troops] : American Forces Press Service, 10 March 2006. [http://stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=20295&archive=true EUCOM-based troops training Mali, Mauritania militaries for border patrols] . Jon R. Anderson, Stars and Stripes European edition, Wednesday, March 17, 2004.

[http://stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=28315&archive=true U.S. Special Ops troops preparing to train foreign soldiers in Africa] . Charlie Coon, Stars and Stripes European edition, Sunday, May 15, 2005.

Some of a number of US Military articles detailing such continued training.

* See: Pan Sahel Initiative (2002-2004) and Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative (2005-).] There have also been reports that this same unit had been used to guard the mining operations in Arlit by the French mining conglomerate Areva NC, or that it (and the rebel movement) had been created by the government itself in order to ratchet up tension in the region and thereby secure Western military aid. [ [http://www.dissidentvoice.org/2007/07/fake-terror-and-instability-in-north-Africa/ Fake Terror and Instability in North Africa] . Sam Urquhart, Dissident Voice: 5 July 2007.

For background on the US involvement in the 2004 Algeria-based Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat pursuit see: [http://www.villagevoice.com/generic/show_print.php?id=71993&page=khatchadourian&issue=0605&printcde=MzU2NzA0OTc3OQ=&refpage=L25ld3MvaW5kZXgucGhwP2lzc3VlPTA2MDUmcGFnZT1raGF0Y2hhZG91cmlhbiZpZD03MTk5Mw=#part2 Pursuing Terrorists in the Great Desert. The U.S. Military's $500 Million Gamble to Prevent the Next Afghanistan] , by Raffi Khatchadourian, Village Voice, January 31st, 2006. ]

Mali 2007 - early 2008

Mali May 2007

On 17 May 2007, Tuareg rebels in Mali relaunched their campaign with an attack on the Malian Army at Tin Zawaten, near the meeting of the Mali, Algerian, and Niger borders. [ [http://www.jeuneafrique.com/jeune_afrique/article_jeune_afrique.asp?art_cle=LIN20057lesdeeuqatt0 Les dessous d’une attaque] . Jeune Afrique, Cherif Ouazani: 20 May 2007.]

Upsurge of violence in Mali

Mali saw the more dramatic upsurge in August 2007, as a spate of attacks began in northeast Mali against members of the Malian military. The Niger based MNJ has said that it has formally allied splinter elements of Tuareg rebel group which has remained on ceasefire since reaching a settlement with the Malian government in July 2007.

On August 28, Tuareg gunmen captured a military convoy 50 km from the town of Tinsawatene, near the border with Algeria. [ [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L28877955.htm Suspected Tuareg rebels ambush Mali military convoy] . Reuters: 28 Aug 2007.]

On August 30, at least 10 civilians were killed and several injured when their vehicle hit a landmine in northern Mali planted by suspected Tuareg rebels, military spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Traore said. In a separate incident, one soldier was killed and several were injured when their vehicle hit a second mine, another military source said. [ [http://English.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/B688AE98-3CE8-4D21-B3E6-9A689F3FAE9A.htm Al Jazeera English - News - Mali Landmine Kills Civilians ] ]

Public and government in Mali appeared shocked by the level of violence in the north of Kidal, Ménaka and the Sahel region, as well as by the effectiveness of the rebel force, which the government has said is led by Ibrahim Bahanga, a Malian Armed Forces officer who had deserted early in the summer of 2007. The government has also claimed that rebel forces are involved in organized crime and drug smuggling. [ [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/IRIN/fd7acc2dc75acf731ecf363276d5f615.htm Mali: Indignation dominates reaction as attacks in north escalate.] IRIN: 31 Aug 2007.]

Bahanga, a former rebel from the May 2006 and 1990 insurgencies, announced on August 31 that his group would negotiate with the government, and intermediaries from former Tuareg rebels headed by 1990's commander Lyad Ag Ghaly, as well as Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, have offered to mediate. At the same time, former rebel commander (and father-in-law of Bahanga) Hama Ag Sidahmed announced the creation of a Niger-Mali Tuareg alliance (the "Alliance-Touareg-Niger-Mali, ATNM"), though this has been denied by another group, claiming to represent the ARC. [ [http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=86&art_id=nw20070826195258732C724981 Mali Tuaregs deny alliance with Niger rebels] . IOL.co.za, August 26 2007. [http://www.sundaytimes.co.za/News/Article.aspx?id=549493 Mali rebels renege on peace accord] . Serge Daniel, AFP,Aug 28, 2007 [http://www.lemali.fr/securite/insecurite/bahanga_pret_a_arreter_ses_attaques_?_200709037511.html Bahanga prêt à arrêter ses attaques?] Yaya SIDIBE. L’Indépendant (Mali), 3 September 2007. ]

On September 13, a United States military aircraft was fired on by Tuareg rebels at Tin-Zaouatene, Mali, where the town remained surrounded by rebel forces for at least four days. A C-130 aircraft was airdropping supplies to Malian troops when it was hit, but returned safely to base. United States officials would not say if they will continue to re-supply the Malian Army, but one official said the "occurrence was not regular." These same reports note that several (unnamed) army posts in the far northeast were similarly surrounded. [http://English.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/E8024803-4ECA-4B46-BA9B-4EA7BE33A5E7.htm

[http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L14864903.htm Tuareg rebels in Mali besiege northern garrison 14 September 2007 16:36:05 GMT Source: Reuters] .

[http://www.france24.com/france24Public/en/news/Africa/20070914-Mali-Tuareg-rebels-Algeria-attacked-Tinzaouatene.html Mali's tuareg rebels attack northern border town, Friday, September 14, 2007, AFP Wire] ] The international press reported Tin-Zaouatene was being reinforced by the Malian army on 18 September, and the rebels had withrawn. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/Africa/6999669.stm Mali boosts army to fight Tuareg] . BBC, 17 September 2007. [http://www.maliweb.net/category.php?NID=22139 Situation au Nord : Bahanga viole sa trêve et donne l’occasion à l’armée de le mater] . Inter De Bamako, 17 September 2007.]

At the same time, a series of storms hit the Sahel region, running all the way to Ethiopia, causing unusually severe flooding and damage and endangering those internally displaced by this conflict in Mali and Niger (as well as displaced persons fleeing other conflicts in Chad, Darfur and Ethiopia). [ [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L14881325.htm Floods in Africa kill dozens and wipe out crops 14 Sep 2007 16:55:08 GMT Source: Reuters] .]

Beginning of 2008

Any military action in the Sahel region is constrained by the tropical rain cycles, with the May to September rainy season making communication and transport in the region south of the Sahara difficult at the best of times. As the dry season began, and unusual rains struck Mali and Niger with particular ferocity, the governments of the two nations began to take markedly different strategies for confronting the Tuareg rebellion. [ [http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=74078 WEST Africa: Floods prompt greater focus on risk reduction] , 3 September 2007 (IRIN)."In Mali, one of the hardest hit countries where the government estimates 30,000 people have been affected, no flood contingency plans were in place."
* [http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=74570 Mali: After the deluge the real struggle begins] , 1 October 2007 (IRIN). "The Malian Red Cross estimates that 21,000 people were affected by floods in Mali this year, stretching from small communities around Gao in the desert areas in the north, to the far west region of Kayes, one of the poorest and most isolated regions of Mali. While the overall number is relatively small compared to the 1.5 million people aid agencies say were affected by floods across the continent, Mali lies on a West African fault-line of natural disasters that makes it more likely than not that almost every community will be hit by one if not more natural disasters or epidemics every year."
* [http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=74992 SAHEL: Foundation money to allow long-term approach to water problem] , 25 October 2007 (IRIN). "The Global Water Initiative (GWI), a partnership of seven charities and relief organisations which will be given US$15 million a year for 10 years."
* [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/FEWS/ac1936408262e6f5d5a91aa3f6f95b24.htm Erratic end of season rains may affect some crops] ,10 Dec 2007 FEWS NET Monthly Report for Mali beginning the period Oct 2007. Shows ONLY areas of fighting in the far northeast as "Highly Food Insecure".
] Both the Malian and Niger conflicts peaked during the dry season on 2007-2008, beginning at the end of 2007 and ending in May. Major conflict in Mali spiked in August and September, as rains ended and pastoralists moved their herds. Following the siege of Kidal, fighting remained sporadic in Mali after the beginning of 2008, and continued heavily in Niger.

Mali: Steps towards peace

In Mali, where the government complemented military reinforcements of northern towns with diplomatic efforts using Malian Tuareg intermediaries, attacks subsided. Mali, continuing to suffer from flooding in the south, as well as global hikes in food prices, has turned to international support, especially from Algeria, and seems eager to engage domestic Tuaregs who continue to honor the 2006 cease fire. The high profile support of Lyad Ag Ghaly as a mediator by the Malian government gave hope that low scale fighting with those Tuareg factions who had split from the 2006 accords might end completely. The Malian government also called on neighboring Algeria to help negotiate peace, patrol the deserted border region, and resupply its northern military bases [ [http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=74238 Mali: Western diplomats warn about “deterioration” in north] , 11 September 2007 (IRIN).]

In March 2008, Mali again saw an upsurge in attacks by fragments of former Tuareg combatants in Kidal region of the far northeast. The Malian government, along with Tuareg leaders who'd remained on the 2006 ceasefire pushed both a military and diplomatic strategy. In March, Muammar Gaddafi of Libya negotiated the release of Malian army prisoners held by the rebels, and sporadic talks were held with Libyan mediation. Malian armed forces remained in control of all the major settlements, but Malian rebels staged a series of raids, the largest taking place at the end of March. Rebel forces attacked a convoy near Abeibara in the east, killing 7 and capturing 20 soldiers and four military vehicles. [ [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7310115.stm Tuareg rebels attack Mali convoy] , BBC, 22 March 2008] A 4 April ceasefire and prisoner exchange was negotiated again through Libya, but each side accused the others of failing to end hostilities, and more sporatic attacks on Army positions occurred in May.

In early June, rebels killed 25 soldiers in an attack on a Kidal base, and in late June the Malian Army killed 20 rebels near the Algerian border, which the Army said was a major rebel base. But just days later, President Amadou Toumani Toure said he remained open to negotiations with the Tuareg rebels, while at the same time agreeing joint security with Algeria. [ [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L15742883.htm Mali, Algeria plan joint patrols on Saharan border] . 15 Jul 2008 Reuters, Tiemoko Diallo.]

At Tessalit on 18 July rebels overan a military post, taking 20 prisoners as well as supplies. [ [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L1981053.htm Gunmen attack Mali outpost, seize soldiers, weapons] 19 Jul 2008 Reuters] Two days later a peace deal was announced, revealing that Algeria had been hosting talks between the government of Mali and the leadership of the "Alliance démocratique du 23 mai".

The Algerian ambassador to Mali, Abdelkrim Ghrieb, had negotiated the deal, between Amada Ag Bibi (a Malian Tuareg Deputy in the Malian National Assembly) for the rebels and General Kafougouna Koné, Malian Minister of the Interior, for the Malian government. 92 prisoners held by the rebels would be released, amnesties were promised for rebels, and re-integration into the military (along the lines of the 2006 deal) were promised for Tuareg fighters. This was also a success for Algeria as a regional power, and rival of the Libyan government for influence in the Sahara. [ [http://www.jeuneafrique.com/pays/mali/article_depeche.asp?art_cle=AFP33318legoustilit0Le gouvernement et les rebelles d'accord pour cesser les hostilités] 21 juillet 2008 - AFP] Throughout the process, the Malian government, as well as Tuareg leaders on both sides of the conflict public ally pushed for a negotiated settlement, in contrast with the Nigerien conflict. Cherif Ouazani was quoted in Algeria as describing the talks as "Malians talking to Malians" [ [http://www.jeuneafrique.com/pays/mali/article_jeune_afrique.asp?art_cle=LIN20078lesmasneila0« Les Maliens parlent aux Maliens »] , Jeune Afrique, 20 juillet 2008.] While the last of the rebel held prisoners were released in August, and the ceasefire held as of the end of that month, [ [http://www.maliweb.net/category.php?NID=34679&intr= Otages enlevés au nord-est de Kidal : Tous libres !] L'Essor, 19/08/2008] there continued to be speculation on the role played by presumed "Mai 23" leader Ibrahim Ag Bahanga, who has not participated in the the Algerian sponsored tripartate talks. Press speculation has posed a split in the already fractured movement, in which Toureg groups loyal to the Kel Adagh have fully participated, while a smaller group around Ag Bahanga had been holding out for Libyan sponsored mediation. [ [http://www.temoust.org/spip.php?article6378 Situation au Nord-Mali : Comment Bahanga a rompu avec l’Algérie et épousé la Libye] , Abdrahamane Keïta - Aurore (Mali), 26/08/2008]

Niger late 2007 - mid 2008

Late 2007: escalating violence and humanitarian crisis

In Niger, the government strategy has been to continue military pressure on the MNJ, declaring them criminal gangs with whom they will have no negotiations. As the MNJ are apparently the larger and more organized of the two rebel forces, much of the northern regions of the country remain under emergency decrees.

Aid and press barred

Press and international aid agencies have complained that they have been prevented from monitoring the situation or delivering aid, but both sides in the fighting report that the conflict continues to escalate. Humanitarian agencies in Niamey estimated in early December that there were around 11,000 people displaced by the fighting, in addition to the 9,000 Nigeriens who lost their homes in heavy flooding. Doctors Without Borders has claimed that no aid is being delivered by the government in the north, while 2,500 to 4,000 displaced people are estimated to have come to Agadez from the mostly Tuareg town of Iferouane, [ These numbers were also reported by the Nigerien NGO [http://www.nordnigersante.com/topic/index.html l'Association NORD NIGER SANTE] on November 17, 2007.] with the entire civilian population apparently fleeing after the army and rebels started fighting in the area in mid 2007. Humanitarian sources are quoted saying that the Army is operating with little control, and adding to, rather than suppressing banditry, drug-trafficking and lawlessness in the north. [ [http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=75795 NIGER: Humanitarian access cut to north] , 10 December 2007 (IRIN). [http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=75792 NIGER: News filtering out of north suggests grave conditions] , 10 December 2007 (IRIN).]

December - January: Mine attacks in south

The Niger government has reported that the MNJ have begun mine attacks against civilians in the southern towns of Tahoua, Dosso and Maradi, areas previously far from the fighting. The MNJ denies targeting civilians, and makes counter claims that government militia have continued indiscriminate attacks on Tuareg communities in the north. Western press sources have claimed the rebels have laid mines that hit Army vehicles, resulting in a spike in mines laid in populated areas. [ [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L05447814.htm Abdoulaye Massalatchi (Reuters) Niger rebels kill 3 soldiers in attack on convoy] . 05 Dec 2007.] On January 9 2008, the first violence was reported in Niamey, the capital, and some 1000 miles from the conflict zone. Abdou Mohamed Jeannot, the director of Niger’s first independent radio station, Radio R & M ("Radio and Music") was killed after driving over a landmine in Yantala, a suburb west of Niamey. Mahamane, who was also the vice president of the national press association, "Maison de la Presse", was not reported to have been vocal on the conflict, but his radio station had been banned by the government in 1998, and rebroadcasts western news reports in Niger, where western reporters have been highly restricted by the government and Radio France was accused by the government (July 2007) of siding with the rebels. The neighborhood is also reported to house many Army officers (which might conceivably have made it a target for the rebels), and another mine was found some 200m from the blast site. The government blamed the MNJ. The government's press chief Ben Omar Mohammed called on the population to set up "vigilance brigades" to fight against "these new types of assassins". The MNJ denied the attack, and said it blamed "Niger army militias". [The MNJ have used the French term "milice" as a derogatory term for the Niger Army. While it means militia, if retains oppressive connotations as the name of the pro-German auxilluary police of the Vichy regime.For the January 9 2008 attack, see:
* [http://www.voanews.com/English/2008-01-09-voa24.cfm Naomi Schwarz. Nigeriens Search for Landmines in Capital After Explosion Kills One] . Voice of America,09 January 2008.
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/Africa/7178529.stm Niger reporter killed by landmine] , BBC, 9 January 2008.
* [http://www.cpj.org/news/2008/Africa/niger09jan08na.html CPJ mourns the loss of Niger radio director] . Committee to Protect Journalists January 9, 2008.
* [http://www.temoust.org/spip.php?article4214 Reuters - Abdoulaye Massalatchi Niger blames desert rebels for mine death in capital] , 09 January 2008.


Continued clashes

A December 9th clash in the Tiguidit escarpment area (south of In-Gall and east of Agadez) was reported by both sides as resulting in civilian casualties. The government reported Army forces fired on civilian vehicles who wandered into fighting with MNJ units who had been ambushed laying mines. The MNJ counters that government militias attacked a civilian convoy, killing a number of civilians, including two Libyan foreign workers. [
* [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L10116716.htm Niger army says killed 7 Tuareg civilians by mistake] , 10 Dec 2007 (Reuters).
* [http://m-n-j.blogspot.com/2007/12/le-massacre-continue-black-or-white-ii.html Le massacre continue: Black or White II] , MNJ Statement, 10 Dec 2007, claiming "5 Nigerien and 2 Libyans civilians were summarily executed by the army".

On January 21 both sides reported an atttack by the MNJ on the town of Tanout, 150 km north of Zinder, in which seven were killed and 11 kidnapped. The rebels claimed they had captured several high ranking officers of the FNIS ("Nigerien Internal Security Forces" - paramilitary police) and the Prefect of Tanout. [ [http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=76376 NIGER: Rebels raid town in south east. IRIN, 22 January 2008] .
[http://m-n-j.blogspot.com/ MNJ Communique: Attaque de la ville de Tanout] . 21 January 2008. [http://www.jeuneafrique.com/pays/niger/article_depeche.asp?art_cle=XIN80028troistuonat0 Trois morts et cinq personnes enlevées lors d'une attaque de bandits armés à Tanout Niger] . XINHUA News Agency, China: 22 January 2008

Ethnic expansion

At the beginning of January, MNJ rebels claimed they have been joined by ethnic Toubou rebel leaders and several Hausa army officers. While there is no independent confirmation of this, the Toubou "Forces armées révolutionnaires du Sahara" (FARS) rose against the government in the 1990s (see Tuareg Rebellion) in the far southeast of Niger. The MNJ claims the former FARS commander Bocar Mohamed Sougouma, (alias "Warabé") has ordered former rebels to rally to the MNJ controlled Tamgak Plateau near Iferaouane. [ [http://www.jeuneafrique.com/pays/niger/article_jeune_afrique.asp?art_cle=LIN06018aprslsuobuo0 Après les Touaregs, les Toubous. Jeune Afrique, 6 January 2008] .]

Whatever the truth behind these counter claims, fighting had by December 2007 begun to spiral out of control, ending the nacent tourist industry in the Aïr Mountains, and destabilising areas of Niger not directly involved in the insurgency of the 1990s.

Niger: international support

Despite the series of escalating attacks, the government of Niger offered a number of concessions to foreign (especially French) interests in January 2008. Two French journalists, arrested on charges of espionage and aiding the rebels on December 17, were formally charged with threatening state security and released on bail 18 January, to face trial later. [ [http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/paperchase/2008/01/niger-charges-french-journalists-for.php Jurist, 17 January] .] French press reports that Gabonese President Omar Bongo Ondimba intervened with President Mamadou Tandja on their behalf. It was also reported that President Bouteflika of Algeria had been in offering security guarantees to Niger. [ [http://www.jeuneafrique.com/pays/niger/article_jeune_afrique.asp?art_cle=LIN06018boucsserias0 Juene Afrique, 6 January] , [http://www.jeuneafrique.com/pays/niger/article_jeune_afrique.asp?art_cle=LIN11117bouteajdnat0 Juene Afrique, 11 November 2007] , [http://www.jeuneafrique.com/pays/niger/article_depeche.asp?art_cle=AFP34258intersianar0 Juene Afrique, 19 January] .] At the same time, the government of Niger renewed Uranium contracts with the French government controlled Areva, obtaining a 50% increase in payments to the Nigerien state. This comes at a time when security concerns have made the diminishing mines at Arlit impossible to operate, and construction of their new mine near Ingal - scheduled to be complete in 2010 yet still not begun - extremely unlikely. [ [http://www.jeuneafrique.com/pays/niger/article_depeche.asp?art_cle=AFP74608laprsajdnat0 La présidente d'Areva a parlé des reporters français avec le président Tandja] . AFP, 17 January 2008.]

Niger: February - August 2008

Beginning in February and March 2008, mine attacks in the south ended, major rebel incursions out of Air and the desert regions subsided, and the Nigerien military went on the offensive, retaking a major rebel position in the far northwest. The rebels launched a daring raid into the Areva facilities in Arlit, seizing four French hostages. International human rights groups condemned the move, and the four were released to the Red Cross. While the Nigerien Armed Forces have staged attacks in the Air, there appears to have been a stalemate from From June 2008. Nigerien rebels have reported air attacks on their bases in the mountains, but major fighting calmed. As Niger edged towards the 2008 rainy season, the MNJ rebels discounted reports that they had begun a ceasefire, but fighting was sporadic. On 20 August the government of Niger renewed its state of emergency in the Agadez Region, in place for more than a year, which places great limits on public gatherings, press and personal speech, movement, while giving broad powers of detention and seizure to the government. [ [http://nigerdiaspora.info/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1914:la-mise-en-garde-reconduite-pour-trois-mois-dans-la-region-dagadez-&catid=14:politique&Itemid=256 La mise en garde reconduite pour trois mois dans la région d'Agadez] . "Le Sahel", 21 August 2008 ]

Reports of ceasefire discounted

On 19 August 2008, it was announced by the Nigerien television broadcast someone they claimed to be rebel leader Aghaly ag Alambo, announcing that the Tuareg would lay down arms in both Mali and Niger following a peace brokered by Libya. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7569408.stm] The MNJ later discounted this as a hoax. This was likely film of Malian rebel leader Ibrahim Ag Bahanga discussing the April peace talks with the Malian government in Libya, hence the reference to Malian leadership and Col. Qaddafi. The current peace deal in the Malian conflict took place in July under the auspices Libya's regional rival Algeria. Aghaly ag Alambo released a statement saying that although they were willing to engage in peace negotiations, they would not lay down their arms unilaterally, and the Malian and Nigerien rebels cannot speak for one another. [ [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/LJ669623.htm Niger Tuareg rebel rejects talk of ceasefire] , Abdoulaye Massalatchi (Reuters), 19 Aug 2008.]

The Nigerien government has reported that a faction of the MNJ led by Toubou rebel commander from the 1990s, Bocar Mohamed Sougouma, had surrendered near Gouré (Zinder Region). In the process, they report, an accidental explosion of landmines which were being handed into the government killed one and wounded two, including Zinder Region Governor Yahaya Yandaka. The MNJ claims the Bocar Mohamed Sougouma, (alias Warabé) had joined the rebellion with a group of former Toubou rebels in January 2008, but that the MNJ had suspected him of being a government agent, and banished him in June 2008 from their bases on the Tamgak Plateau near Iferaouane. The MNJ denied from the beginning of 2008 the use of landmines, while the government has charged the rebels with widespread attacks on civilians by indiscriminate use of landmines as far south as Niamey. [ [http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/LO7182.htm One killed, two hurt by mine at Niger arms handover] , Abdoulaye Massalatchi, Reuters. 24 Aug 2008.] [ [http://m-n-j.blogspot.com/2008/08/gour-mort-et-dsolation-suite-une.html Gouré : mort et désolation suite à une mesquinerie] . MNJ Official communique, 25 August 2008. ]

See also

* List of wars 2003-current
* Azaouad


* [http://www.stockinterview.com/News/07202007/Tuareg-Niger-Uranium-Mining.html Tuareg Rebels on Brink of Shutting Down Niger’s Uranium Mining. James Finch, stockinterview.com: July 20, 2007.]

External links

* [http://www.irinnews.org/Africa-Country.aspx?Country=NE IRIN] - humanitarian news and analysis including frequent reports on the situation in northern Niger
* [http://m-n-j.blogspot.com/ The Niger Movement for Justice (Mouvement des Nigériens pour la justice, MNJ) Press site] .: three to ten communiqués a week have been posted since April 2007.
* [http://atnm.blogspot.com/ Reputed press site of the " ALLIANCE TOUAREGUE NIGER-Mali"] : created 31 August 2007.
* [http://www.voanews.com/English/2007-08-21-voa37.cfm Rebels in Niger Threaten More Attacks]
* [http://www.alertnet.org/db/crisisprofiles/NE_TUA.htm Reuters/alertnet.org: Articles on Niger-Mali Tuareg unrest] .
* [http://www.temoust.org/spip.php?rubrique6 temoust.org current news] : Updated news at France based Tuareg nationalist group.
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/documentary_archive/4131336.stm Secrets in the Sand] . Two part BBC Radio documentary on US involvement and potential instability in the Sahel. First broadcast August 2005.
* [http://tuaregcultureandnews.blogspot.com/ Tuareg Culture and News] An educational website for study and research on the Tuareg people, with articles directly concerning the Second Tuareg Rebellion.
* [http://www.ifpri.org/2020africaconference/program/day1summaries/elbeltagy.pdf Security and Insecurity in North Africa] Jeremy Keenan (2006) Security and Insecurity in North Africa. Review of African Political Economy (ROAPE) No. 108: 269-296. ISSN: 0305-6244
* [http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/unrestsahara/ Unrest in the Sahara] (Aljazeera English)

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