Tuareg Rebellion

The Tuareg are a nomadic people of the Sahara Desert often referred to as the Blue Men of the Desert after their dyed blue robes and they are famous for their artwork and fighting prowess. This image of the Blue Men of the Desert is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic licenseEstimates as to their overall population range from one to five million, with one million living in the Republic of Niger. The Tuareg, 'meaning abandoned by God' (although they call themselves Imohag ~ free men), also live in Mali, Libya, Algeria and Burkina Faso. The Tuareg are known to still practise slavery and it is estimated that 8% of the population where they reside are classed as slaves, the property of their Tuareg masters.

Rebellions by the Tuareg can be traced back to at least 1916, and whilst there continues to be ongoing activity, the last major rebellion took place between 2007 and 2009 affecting both Mali and Niger where it was largely contained within the Agadez Region until a ceasefire brokered by Libya was established in May 2009. Earlier rebellions had taken place between 1916-1917, 1961-1964 and 1990-1995. The exact number of casualties is not known however it is estimated that some 60 Mali citizens were killed during the rebellion along with around 200 Niger citizens.

The rebellion centred on a widely held belief that the Tuareg were marginalised within Niger, and, with living conditions becoming ever more harsh, they were failing to capitalise on Niger's income from the country's mineral wealth, especially the French operated uranium mines around Arlit. They claimed that the government of Niger had failed to uphold parts of the 1995 ceasefire that promised them a larger slice of this wealth as well as other concessions. Whilst known as the Taureg Rebellion, it was more a Niger Movement for Justice's rebellion, a northern Niger militant group comprised mainly of Tuareg but also Toubou and the Fulani. The group was led by Aghaly ag Alambo (below right)and Mohamed Acharif who defected from Niger's military in 2007. Because of the nature of the organisation, and a crackdown by the Niger government on reporting of its activities, the exact number of its forces are not known, however it is believed to be in the region of 3500, including many former Niger soldiers.

Aghaly ag AlamboThe rebellion started in early 2007 when the Niger Movement for Justice attacked Niger military outposts, then, in June of that year, northern Niger's main airport at Agadez and another military post in the Air Mountains, taking 70 prisoners of war. Within months, Taureg in Mali had joined the rebellion, tearing up their 2006 ceasefire agreement, however the Mali government responded swiftly and saw a ceasefire there in December 2007.

The conflict continued throughout 2008, however by early 2009 it was becoming clear that the Niger Movement for Justice's aim of securing their objectives was making little progress. With the local population suffering from the economic stagnation due to the conflict, a collapse of any tourism in the region and an increasing number of refugees in Adadezm, the leadership of the NMJ split, peace talks were convened and an uneasy ceasefire declared in May 2009, effectively ending the rebellion.

The United Nations stepped in to help repatriate some 20,000 refugees with their World Food Program distributing food and other humanitarian aid, however the affected area continued to be under a state of emergency until the end of August 2009 allowing the Niger government to ban gatherings and make 'preventative' arrests to secure the ceasefire. Today there are question marks as to whether the Tuareg are allied to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, however are not considered Arabic themselves. The short video documentary above shows pictures and images of the recent Tuareg rebellion together with more background information whilst the video opposite provides a pro-Taureg perspective, a people with a home.


Tuareg Rebellion: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license

Tuareg Rebellion

Tuareg Rebellion

Tuareg Rebellion

Tuareg Rebellion


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Tuareg Rebellion

Tuareg Rebellion

A short video documentary about the 2007 - 2009 Tuareg Rebellion in Niger together with background information.


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