February 20, 2013

Playing the "Slavery Card"

© Copyright Barbara A. Worley 2013

Please type the citation to this article as follows:
Worley, Barbara A.
2013  “Playing the Slavery Card.”  Tuareg Culture and News.  February 20, 2013.  Accessed on the Internet  [date]  http://tuaregcultureandnews.blogspot.com/2013/02/playing-slavery-card.html
Some of the worst enemies of the Tuareg people are Westerners who make their livelihood by spreading fear and hatred for an entire population that they do not know.  Several days ago, USA Today published an article [1] by a young American reporter who wrote that “Tuaregs have long kept slaves,” and implied that Tuaregs are still “taking slaves” today and holding them captive.  This is incorrect.  The Tuaregs do not own slaves today, and do not capture people or hold them as slaves.  The reporter based her article largely on propaganda she heard from one individual in southern Mali. 
The key to understanding why people in southern Mali are spreading such propaganda is contained in the USA Today writer’s own observation:  Human Rights Watch said the Malian army and black African civilians are holding all Tuaregs and Arabs responsible for the recent months of terror and human rights abuses, whether or not they participated in the crimes.”  In order to report truthfully on the situation in Mali, the writer should have taken her cue from the fact that the Bamako government, the Malian army, and various people in the south are vilifying “all Tuaregs,” who live mainly in the north. 
The stigmatization of an entire population of hundreds of thousands of people is a propaganda war.  It can lead to genocide.  In Rwanda, the action began unrolling as Hutus started publicizing hate messages about Tutsis.  The Tuareg people are fearful of genocide. 
The Malian army and government are dominated by ethnic groups in southern Mali that are opposed to the Tuareg people.  Various people in the south have been spreading fear and hatred of Tuareg people in order to gain Western financial, military, and political support – and to justify the Malian army’s gross abuses and atrocities against the Tuareg civilian population., which have been documented throughout this past year by human rights organizations. 
Mali has often played the “slavery card” against the Tuareg people to sway Western support against them.  However, we must keep in mind that raiding, trading, and keeping slaves was practiced by many peoples of Africa, and by ancestors of practically all the cultural groups in Mali.  The predominant Bambara culture in southern Mali was no exception [2].
The “slavery card” is a propaganda tool that is used to stigmatize a people unjustly, to motivate Westerners and others to sympathize with the accusers, and to downplay or ignore the legitimate grievances of the people who are accused. 
Slavery in Mali  was formally abolished in 1905 after the French colonized the region where Mali is today.  Raids by the Bambara, Tuaregs, and others to capture people and enslave them ended in the 1800s, and some slaves left their masters after the 1905 emancipation.  Tuaregs no longer own slaves, and the inheritance of slaves stopped decades ago. 
Some people – in nearly every ethnic group in Mali – continued to maintain slaves for some years during the colonial period.  The term “Bella” is a Songhay term for “slave” that was applied by the French to slaves in every ethnic group in Mali.  The Tuareg term is iklan.  The French did little to enforce the anti-slavery law.  There were few options for slave-status people to obtain work elsewhere.  Slaves were emancipated.  But iklan remained a recognized social status in a residual social system that included nobles, vassals, marabouts, blacksmiths, and slave-status members, all of them considered Tuaregs. 
By the mid-1940s, the majority of emancipated slaves had left their masters and began living independently.  Other freed slaves continued to live in a patron-client relationship with their associated families, who provided them with work and income or payment in kind.  The political turmoil of the 1960s, and especially the drought of the 1970s greatly impoverished the Tuareg populations.  Many Tuaregs fled Mali to escape government oppression and army massacres. Nomad populations, including the iklan, were denied food aid during the drought, and many Tuaregs lost their livestock in the disaster. 
By the mid-1970s, the vast majority of Tuaregs, no matter what their social class,  were living in abject poverty and could no longer afford to support servants.  Members of the “noble” social class were performing domestic chores such as grinding grain and hauling drinking water.  In some cases, descendants of freed slaves continued to live in proximity to the families of their ancestors’ former masters.  They did so by choice, because some Tuaregs treated iklan like friends or members of the family, and the iklan had special roles to play in family gatherings and rituals.
The Tuareg social system has gradually evolved over the past 100 years since the abolition of slavery.  Tuaregs have welcomed the transition to democracy, recognizing that all Tuaregs, including descendants of former slaves, have equal rights under the law.  The social system that recognized “slaves” as a social class is in decline.
In a video documentary titled “Modern Day Slaves - Niger” [3] a Niger government official says it is a falsehood to say that “slavery exists.”  Social status terms like iklan exist as artifacts of the evolving social system, but the practice of slavery does not.  The film also shows that some iklan continue to live with their associated families, in patron-client relationships.  The director of the Niger anti-slavery association Timidria explains:  “You will not find a slave market in Niger; nor will you find a shackled slave, and even less a slave transaction.  On the other hand, what the type of slavery we experience shares with the former slave trade is humiliation, stigmas, the labels of persons who are considered sub-human.” In other words, the practice of slavery does not exist – it’s the stigma of being descended from former slaves that exists, at least in some places.  In the film, a Timidria agent tries repeatedly to coerce a Tuareg family to admit that they are “slaves” working for a “master,” and they repeatedly deny it.  The film’s narrator says, “That has made it a problem for Timidria to prove that there are 870,000 slaves… The central government’s representative here … says there are none.”  The governor of Tahoua then says, “I can tell you that to my knowledge as the Governor of the Tahoua region which I have been leading for almost six years, I have never been made aware that slavery exists in the region.”  The film’s narrator says, “The government has long accused Timidria of inventing claims of slavery, to get money from international donors.”
It is possible to make a comparison with the U.S., following abolition, when slaves were freed but many Americans in the south continued to think in terms of the old social system.  It takes time for a population to make a full adjustment to a major change in social organization.  African-Americans today still feel the pain and stigma of their ancestors who were once slaves, and discrimination has not disappeared. 
Slavery was formally and legally abolished in America over 150 years ago, and in Mali over a century ago.  Social change is an ongoing process, as people continue to adjust to a different social system, and different ways of thinking.  There is a difference, however, between a “slave” social status and “keeping slaves.”  Both are repugnant, and all of the ethnic groups in Mali and Niger are gradually making the transition that Americans and Europeans have had to make to achieve a more truly democratic society.  Democracy is relatively recent in Mali and Niger, since the early 1990s.  The fact is that Tuaregs today do not capture, own, or keep slaves, and they recognize the value of democracy.
The United States, and many European countries, also had a long history of slavery.  Slavery is a sad part of our history that we share with many African peoples.  Like Americans and Europeans, African peoples are making the effort to move past that history.  
Many Tuaregs are dismayed by the falsehoods reported in the USA Today article.  Tuareg voices are being expunged from the media by a powerful propaganda campaign promoted by various political voices in the south, reinforced by Western journalists who do not understand the political dynamics in Mali.  We must help the Tuareg people communicate the truths of their suffering – and the vilification of their population by people in Mali and by Western reporters who do not even know them.

-- Prof. Barbara A. Worley, The University of Massachusetts

[1] http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/NEWS/usaedition/2013-02-15-French-incursion-frees-some-slaves-of-Mali_ST_U.htm


[3] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZfsB5g-R9eQ

February 17, 2013

MNLA Communique No 52 Feb 11, 2013

Bilal ag Acherif

(This English translation is approximate)

1.  The MNLA [National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad] would like to remind everyone that the MNLA was at the outset a peaceful movement that tried to work for a political settlement of the issues through dialogue – and this includes our correspondence addressed to the Malian authorities dated 05 October 2011 [several months before the armed conflict that began January 17, 2012]
2.  The MNLA is asking for the immediate opening of negotiations with the Government of Mali, to lay down the conditions for the exercise of authority, administration, and development in Azawad.
3.  The MNLA is requesting the appointment of a neutral mediator, one who is internationally recognized, and accredited by both parties [MNLA and Mali].
4.  The MNLA does not take issue with the internationally recognized borders of Mali, while clearly keeping in mind that Azawad exists as an entity.
5.  The MNLA recalls that on the eve of the independence of the Sudanese Republic, which is now the Republic of Mali, the populations of Azawad joined Mali's independence but wanted respect for their cultures and their dignity.
6.  Given our commitment to peace, the MNLA is requesting the participation of France, the United States of America, United Nations, European Union, African Union, and the Organization of the Islamic Conference, as observers in the negotiations with Mali.
7.  The MNLA reaffirms its commitment to the International Declaration of Human Rights, the Charter of the United Nations, and fundamental freedoms.
8.  Considering the poverty, abandonment, and contempt in which populations of Azawad have always been kept within Mali, the MNLA is asking for aid and development for Azawad:
      a.  Health services (clinics and hospitals)
      b.  Water and electricity
      c.  Food aid - the population urgently needs food
      d.  Reopening the schools throughout Azawad, and support for students to take up their studies again
      e.  The MNLA is asking for amelioration of the degraded living conditions of refugees and displaced populations, and help for them to return quickly to their homes and pasture sites.
9.    The MNLA is asking for the appointment of a coordinator approved by both parties [MNLA and Mali], to restore these basic services in Azawad, and to establish effective procedures to ensure transparency in the management of funds, to avoid corruption and nepotism.
10.  The MNLA maintains its commitment to fight against terrorism and assumes its share of responsibility in this fight, according to its means.
11. The MNLA does not accept a Malian military presence in areas under its control before the end of negotiations.  The MNLA favors a political solution to the issue of Azawad.
12. The MNLA wants to draw the attention of the international community to the many abuses that have recently been committed in areas occupied by the Malian army.  The MNLA  supports the request of Human Rights Watch to start an independent international commission of inquiry into these recent human rights abuses. The MNLA is also asking for the opening of an independent international investigation to shed light on the crimes committed by the Malian army from 1963 to the present day among the populations of Azawad.
13. The MNLA denies any responsibility for the sad events in Aguelhoc in January 2012, and is eager for the establishment of an international commission of inquiry to establish the facts surrounding Aguelhoc.  The MNLA is willing to contribute to a search for the truth of what happened at Aguelhoc.  

Written at Kidal, February 11, 2013
President of the Transitory Council of the State of Azawad (CTEA)
Bilal Ag Acherif


Human Rights Report - Moussa Ag Acharatoumane

Written by Moussa Ag Acharatoumane
Toumast Press
Saturday, February 16, 2013 8:35 p.m.

Since the beginning of “Operation SERVAL” in Azawad, the MNLA has continued to bring to public awareness the rights of civilian populations who are facing an outpouring of vengeance that is animating the Malian military and local politicians who are returning to Timbuktu and Gao. These "returnees" are trying to galvanize feelings of vengeance among the local populations.

The National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) reminds the national and international community that it must remain committed to the principles of international law regarding the protection of civilians.

October 22-27, 2012 – Sokolo[i]:

Eight (08) Tuareg pastoralists were abducted and executed in a camp not far from Diabali in the region of Ségou.  Additionally, other abuses were committed against a nomadic camp between Sokolo and Nara in the middle of that week. We were told about Malian soldiers entering the nomad camp, and leaving with the men, as well as their vehicles and numerous sheep, on the eve of the feast of Tabaski. It is this same Diabali army barracks which was already implicated in the massacre of 16 Muslim preachers the previous month [September 9, 2012].

On November 28, 2012, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon[ii] expressed his concerns about the risk of military intervention in Mali, and he asked the UN Counsel to ensure that the African forces will respect human rights before giving the green light to its implementation.   The concerns of the Secretary General of the UN have now proven a reality that must be addressed.

At the beginning of 2013, during a press conference on Tuesday, January 22, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon[iii] welcomed the "courageous" intervention of France in Mali.  Ban Ki-moon has continued to warn repeatedly about the risks of this humanitarian intervention. UN resolution 2085[iv] advises a political process to resolve the conflict. This resolution should allow for negotiations with the movements that have severed all ties with terrorist organizations.  The MNLA has always distanced itself from such groups and has refused any compromise with them.

Despite appeals to the UN and NGOs, the Malian authorities have turned a blind eye to these very troubling crimes.


Human Rights Watch[v] reports, February 1, 2013:  "
Malian government forces summarily executed at least 13 suspected Islamist supporters and forcibly disappeared five others from the garrison town of Sévaré and in Konna during January 2013.... Islamist armed groups in Konna executed at least seven Malian soldiers, five of whom were wounded, and used children as soldiers in combat.”

According to the Testimony of relatives and neighbors gathered by Human Rights Watch, “Another witness said that on January 22, Malian soldiers took a well-known religious leader from the village of Gnimi-Gnama while he was preparing for prayer. Five days later, his bloated body was found a kilometer away….  Between January 9 and 18 in Sévaré, Konna, and surrounding villages, Malian soldiers also allegedly forcibly disappeared five men, mostly ethnic Peuhl [Fulani].”

Amnesty International[vi] has received several reports indicating that members of the Malian army have committed extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances on January 10 and 11. More than 20 civilians have been arrested in the streets or at the bus station in Sevaré. Bodies were thrown into a well in the neighborhood of Waïludé.

The International Federation of Human Rights[vii] has warned the international community that the situation requires concerned parties to react in order to avoid further reprisals and serious intercommunal tensions. Responding to this information, the French Minister of Defence appealed to the Malian army to be "extremely vigilant" against the risk of abuse. "The army must be irreproacable, and there can be no question that we will sanction any actions that we would reproach for the terrorists," the Malian government said in a statement, but all of that remains empty talk.

The Malian army’s vengeance that was predicted before Operation SERVAL began has thus ensued and continues to come to the knowledge of the national and international community – but no perpetrator has been arrested.

These last two months have seen the fury of the Malian army, unable to accept its earlier defeat in Azawad, which is now attacking unarmed civilians – and there is no help from anyone to assuage the Malian army’s hatred.  The Malian army’s abuses and extra-judicial summary executions have continued – under the gaze of a disillusioned international community that is reluctant to express any outrage at the horrors.

According to Russia Today[viii] correspondent Gonzalo Wanchad:

“Concerning the number of victims, the Russia Today correspondant cites the example of a specific case of 25 villages that constitute the Malian district of Konna.  "The final outcome of the liberation effort is certainly deplorable.  According to our survey, the French Air Force reported killing only two rebels.  But it is the civilian population that paid the heaviest price for liberation:  14 civilians were killed by French bombs.”  (Watch the video[ix]).

"At the time of the bombing, I was not home. I was praying when they came to tell me that my family had been bombed. They destroyed everything I had: my family and livelihood,” said Idriss Meiga, a farmer Konna whose wife and 3 children (ages 11, 10 and 6 years ) were killed in the French air raids.

Abdoul Kappo explains that his family had to take in the three children of a mother killed in the bombing. "The little ones came running and told us that their mother had been killed. I have been taking care of them at my home. Their mother died after an hour of suffering. She has left her three children. Now they only have us,” said Abdoul Kampo.

Olivier Herviaux[x], international journalist, reports:

In the region of Niono other witnesses hve described abuses carried out by the Malian army. The victims include two cousins, Aboubakrim Ag Mohamed, a marabout and farmer aged 37, and Samba Ag Ibrahim, a shepherd aged 50, who were killed at Ceribala, 40 kilometers from Niono on Friday, January 18, 2013.

At Kona, five (05) civilians including a mother and her three young children were killed during the counter-offensive led by the French and Malian troops.

Edifying Testimony offered by Hadija Minetou on BellewarMedia[xi]:

Translation [from Arabic]:  She [an elderly woman, Menatou] arrived at the refugee camp of M'bera east of Mauritania. She was a refugee looking for a safe place, after leaving her two sons in the city after the outbreak of the war. Menatou just recently had information confirming that traitors had taken her sons. The Sahel news agency had this conversation with her:  It was a very moving debate, she remembered with sadness, with her two sons  and a brother she had left in the Mopti region after being forced to leave.  She lost track of their news, and then she learned that they were brutally killed. She was crying, saying: We belong to God and to Him I will return; I swear they were all killed. This elderly woman has not been able to sleep since she had lost contact with her sons and her brother. She experiences extremely difficult moments when she tries to talk about it; she remembers that this war is entering s phase of ethnic cleansing and she wants to know how to save the innocent civilians from this tragedy. This is the story of Aminatou [Menatou], a widow seeking refuge, who spent 10 days on the road between Mopti and Toumbouctou braving difficulties, traumatized by the pain of having been forced to abandon her sons and her brother, whose executioners have no mercy! Who can help her?


The information we collected through our surveys, among witnesses and family members of the victims, all reveal that there is a manhunt for "Tuaregs."  When Timbuktu and Gao were re-taken by Malian and French armies supported by [Hadj Gamou’s] troops from Niger, it was followed by looting, theft, and vandalism against the inhabitants and their property.

Summary Executions:

At Timbuktu, as of February 6, 2012:

Mohamed Ag Mohamed Ousmane Ag Hama Ag Ihalissane (known as “Wagui”), a man aged 65 who was the father of 11 children (6 boys and 5 girls), was arrested by members of the Malian army under the command of Colonel Sangaré and Captain Konate, and they summarily executed him.

Mohamed Lamin Ould Hamoudi, Director of the Nour El Moubine Medersa [school]

Mohamed Ould Tijani, along with others whose bodies have not yet been identified – killed by the Malian army and their Gandakoy militia.

A mass grave was also discovered in Timbuktu, not far from the Hotel Azalai – some bodies have been identified and some remain unidentified.

At Timbuktu, as of February 14, 2012:

One of the most recent atrocities against Tuareg and Arab civilians occurred on Febuary 14, 2012, in Timbuktu. In circumstances that remain to be determined (no independent observer was on site), the Malian army arrested Eljimite Ag Khaked (age 56) and his son Biga Ag Eljimite (age 19). Soon after, the bodies of the two victims were found outside the city.

At Douenza – Ould Douchy

At Ber – Mohamed Ibrahim Ag Hama, known as Daha

At Gossi – February 10, 2012, Imam Mohamed Issouf Ag Attayoub and another person whose name is not yet known.

At Léré – January 15, 2012, the following ten people were killed by the Malian army:

1.  Moctar ag Barha
2.  Oumar ag Ayaye
3.  Ibrahim ag Mossa
4.  Ibrahim ag Halay
5.  Mohamed Balla ag Intamalou
6.  Humaydi ag Intahana
7.  Abdallah ag Matta
8.  Mohamed ag Souka
9.  Iskaw ag Alkher
10.  Amaha ag Elmahdi

In the town of Gossi and around it, the Malian army is blamed by both reporters and witnesses. The number of missing persons [“disappearances”] is estimated at more than 32 according to eyewitnesses who observed their arrests at Gossi. Among these were children and elderly people.  The Malian army is hunting for "red skins," as the soldiers and their guides say.  The 11 names that have been reported among the 32 are either the exact identities of these individuals or else pseudonyms, according to rapporteurs. They were executed a few kilometers from the town, along a pond known as "Ebang I Mallane."


In the region of Gao, at Tagarangabote (circle Ansongo, site of the latest clashes between MUJAO and MNLA), the Malian army detained the entire population at a well, and 22 motorcycles were confiscated from their owners and burned. One man was robbed of his 4/4 vehicle and his satellite phone, then forcibly dragged to Ansongo. In the city of Gao there were also abuses and executions. We note that in each of the towns and villages mentioned here, the Malian army systematically forced people to evacuate their homes, and confiscated their property, ransacking what little was left in the hands of the families.

People reported “disappeared”:

At Gossi:
1.  Alkhalifa Haidara
2.  Bada Lamina Ould Taher
3.  Checkou Kunta
4.  Ahmed Ould Bakaye
5.  Med Aly
6.  Aboubacrine Ag Ayouba (14 years)
7.  Bachir Ould Hammar
8.  Fassil Kountam
9.  Aghaly Ag Sidi
10.  Abdourazack Ould Yahia
11.  Mohamed Ag Issouf

At Toya:  Med Ag Atiyoub, and his brother Abdallah Ag Attiyoub
At Bonus:  Oumar Ag Koukou
At Nara:  National Guard Sergeant Chief Arby ould Chaibani
At Kati:  Sergeant Wani Ould Oumar
At Timbuktu:  Aly Ould Khabadi, a merchant in the Abaradjou neighborhood  (Thursday, 14 February)
At Timbuktu:  Akassam Ag Himna

Many summary executions have taken place, but the details of names and data could not be obtained for all of them, because of the pressure on civilians and the hunt for “light-skinned” people.

We note that in each of the towns and villages mentioned above cons, the Malian army engaged in systematic excavations of homes, involving a rampage of confiscation and looting of the families’ property.

As Mr. Hama Ag Mahmoud, a member of MNLA, announced in October 2012, Bamako must react quickly, very quickly and take clear measures: "Mali must provide evidence that there is a government which oversees the country. We expect an investigation and especially some action. We want evidence of sanctions – not military sanctions but criminal sanctions.”

The MNLA is concerned about the impunity of these  crimes against the civilian population of Azawad, throughout all this conflict (1963-2012) with Mali, and the fact that the perpetrators continue to be political and military actors of Mali who are not subject to any legal proceedings.

International human rights, and people’s rights during war, applies to all armed parties in the Malian conflict.  These laws include Common Article 3, common to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions, and the customary laws of war. Common Article 3 and Protocol II specifically prohibit the killing of captured combatants and civilians in detention. Individuals who deliberately commit serious violations of the law of war may be prosecuted for war crimes. 

For this purpose the MNLA, calls National and International jurisdictions to shed light on Mali and that the perpetrators (civilian and military) of massacres of the people of Azawad must be placed under arrest and brought before the International Courts including the International Criminal Court, which has opened an investigation into the situation in Mali. 

Given all of our warnings that were not heeded, and having witnessed the genocide of the 1990s, the opening of a Special Tribunal for Mali is an absolute necessity to shed light on any abuses that took place from 1963 to the present. The MNLA recalls that war crimes committed by any belligerent must be taken into account and punished under the Geneva Convention of 1949.

Moussa Ag Acharatoumane
Human Rights Officer of the CTEA

The original report is in French:


[i] http://www.rfi.fr/afrique/20121027-mali-le-mnla-demande-bamako-explications-recentes-exactions-contre-touaregs
[ii] http://www.rfi.fr/afrique/20121129-mali-ban-ki-moon-risques-intervention-ansar-dine-lere-mnla
[iii] http://www.rfi.fr/afrique/20130123-ban-ki-moon-reserve-un-soutien-onu-operation-militaire-mali
[iv] http://www.un.org/News/fr-press/docs/2012/CS10870.doc.htm
[v] http://www.hrw.org/fr/news/2013/01/31/mali-l-armee-malienne-et-des-groupes-islamistes-ont-execute-des-prisonniers
[vi] http://www.amnesty.org/fr/news/mali-civilians-risk-all-sides-conflict-2013-02-01
[vii] http://www.fidh.org/Operation-de-reconquete-du-Nord-12814
[viii] http://www.voltairenet.org/article177442.html
[ix] http://www.voltairenet.org/article177442.html
[x] http://africamix.blog.lemonde.fr/2013/02/01/mali/
[xi] https://www.facebook.com/BellewarMedia

Human Rights Report - ARVRA

The Malian army has executed or "disappeared" more than 200 civilians in the past month

Report:  Association of Refugees and Victims of Repression of Azawad  (ARVRA)

There have been 200 extrajudicial executions of Azawad civilians by the Malian army  since the beginning of the French intervention!

The Malian army has executed or abducted more than 200 civilians, mostly Tuaregs and Moors, between 11 January and 15 February 2013 in the wake of the French intervention. This figure is 15 times higher than the number of crimes committed by the Malian forces during the three months that were spent in clashes between the Malian army and the MNLA (January-March 2012).

Extrajudicial executions, assassinations, murders and abductions of Tuareg, Moors, Fulani and Songhai people occur blatantly, often during the day and in the presence of witnesses. Soldiers, during operations, publicly rape, steal, and plunder property belonging to members of the above mentioned communities and in some cases supervise the acts of vandalism by black populations on location.  Thus there were reports relating scenes of public looting under the watchful eye of the Malian military the day after the arrival of the French in Timbuktu. According to numerous witnesses, hundreds of cattle were taken from their owners by the Malian military in the area of ​​Gourma, and taken to Sevaré.

All these acts have taken place in places that were re-taken by French forces after they surrendered to the Malian army - since the Malian army had been unable to move around on its own without the protection of French soldiers. Such crimes have taken place in Konna, Sévaré, Niono, Diabali, Douentza, Gossi, Gao, Lere, Gundam, and Timbuktu ....

As of February 15th,  Malian soldiers have executed more than twenty people in various places in the Tombouctou region:  at Léré, 12 Tuaregs; at Echel near Tonka, 3 people; at Tintaboraghen (south of Timbuktu), 9 people – including 6 from the same family.

ARVRA (Association of refugees and victims of repressions Azawad) is making the list available, including the places and the testimony of several witnesses concerning gross and massive violations of human rights.

Therefore, the ARVRA association expresses its deep concern and, to its amazement, the face deafening silence of the French and Malian authorities in the killing of innocent civilians since January 11, 2013. We recall that these people have also been living under the yoke of the obscurantist [Islamist/jihadist] forces and suffered their abuses.

If the fight against terrorism is a just war, it can not overlook all of these war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide.

It is imperative that the Human Rights organizations, the United Nations, the African Union, ECOWAS, and particularly the French and Malian authorities – take their responsibilities in demanding the immediate cessation of acts of violence against innocent civilians.

We are urging France to address Mali concerning these massacres without delay – directly and officially – to cease and desist these atrocities, and to have the perpetrators arrested. The presence of French troops on the ground in Mali and Azawad suggests that it is possible, necessary and indispensable for France to take action.

We call on the ICC [International Criminal Court], in particular, the ICC Attorney General, to exercise diligence and impartiality in challenging the authorities in Bamako and opening an investigation on these crimes.

February 16, 2013

Abdourahmane AG Mohamed Elmoctar

President of ARVRA

Association des Réfugiés et Victimes des Répressions de l’Azawad

200 exécutions extrajudiciaires de civils azawadiens par l’armée malienne depuis le début de l’intervention française !!!

L’armée malienne a exécuté et, ou enlevé plus de 200 civils  majoritairement Touaregs et Maures entre le 11 janvier et le 15 février 2013 dans le sillage de l’intervention française. Ce chiffre est 15 fois supérieur au nombre d’exactions commises par les forces maliennes au cours des trois mois qu’ont duré les affrontements entre le MNLA et l’armée malienne (janvier à mars 2012).
Les exécutions extrajudiciaires, les assassinats, les meurtres et les enlèvements de touaregs, maures, peuls et songhaïs se produisent de façon flagrante, souvent de jour, et en présence de témoins.  Les soldats, en opérations, violent, volent et pillent publiquement les biens appartenant aux communautés sus mentionnées et dans certains cas supervisent les actes de vandalisme par les populations noires restées sur place. Ainsi que le relatent les reportages de scènes de pillages publics sous l’œil bienveillant des militaires maliens le jour suivant l’arrivée des français à Tombouctou. De nombreux témoignages font de centaines de têtes de bétail enlevé dans la zone du Gourma par les militaires maliens et convoyé sur Sevaré 
Tous ces actes se déroulent dans les localités reprises par les forces françaises après leur rétrocession à l’armée malienne, celle-ci étant incapable de circuler toute seule sans la protection des soldats français. Il en est ainsi à Konna, Sévaré, Niono, Diabali, Douentza, Gossi, Gao, Léré, Goundam, Tombouctou….
Pas plus tard que dans la journée du 15 février les soldats maliens ont exécuté plus d’une vingtaine de personnes à divers endroits dans la région de Tombouctou : Léré, 12 touaregs, 3 personnes à Echel, près de Tonka, 9 personnes dont 6 d’une même famille à Tintaboraghen, au sud de Tombouctou).
ARVRA (association des réfugiés et victimes des répressions de l’Azawad) tient à disposition la liste, les lieux ainsi quelques témoignages sur ces violations flagrantes et massives des droits humains.
Par conséquent, l’association exprime sa vive préoccupation ainsi que sa stupeur face au silence assourdissant des autorités Françaises et maliennes dans le massacre des populations civiles innocentes depuis le 11 janvier 2013. Nous rappelons que ces populations ont vécu sous le joug des forces obscurantistes et subi leurs exactions.
Si la lutte contre le terrorisme, est une guerre juste, elle ne peut cependant pas occulter tous ces crimes de guerre, crimes contre l’humanité, voire de génocide.  
Il est urgent que les organisations des droits de l’homme, Les Nations Unies, l’Union Africaine, la CEDEAO et particulièrement, les autorités Maliennes et Françaises prennent leurs responsabilités en exigeant la cessation immédiate des exactions contre d’innocentes populations civiles.
Nous exigeons de la France d’interpeller, sans délai, directement et officiellement, le Mali afin que ces massacres cessent et que les auteurs soient arrêtés. La présence de soldats français sur le terrain laisse croire que cela est possible, nécessaire et indispensable.
Nous interpellons, la CPI, en particulier, la Procureure générale, à faire preuve de diligence et d’impartialité en interpellant les autorités de Bamako et en ouvrant  une enquête.  

16 février 2013

Abdourahmane AG Mohamed Elmoctar

Président ARVRA

February 16, 2013

“All we see is death – again and again”

When will the West stop this genocide?  France brought the Malian army into the north, knowing full well that the Malian army wants nothing more than to kill “light-skinned” Tuaregs and others. 

More of the Malian Army’s summary executions reported today:

Wednesday/Thursday, February 13-14:
1.  Bayi Ag Mohamedlamine, at Wami, near Hombori
2.  An elderly religious cleric, Ashirif Marabou Mohamed (Isherif), at Hombori
3.  An elderly Kel Ansar Ali, at Gossi

Friday, February 15:
4. Halid ag Kpucou, at Gossi

These have been reported to Human Rights Watch for investigation. 

Click on the map below to see the location of Hombori; Gossi is the town just north of Hombori, on the road to Gao:

More Malian Army Massacres Yesterday

Unfortunately, the French helicopter pilot who was able to save six Tuareg men from summary execution on January 25 (see previous blog post) was not around yesterday.   The Malian army publicly executed ten Tuareg men on Friday, February 15, at Léré.  Their names are below, and have been reported to Human Rights Watch for investigation.

La liste des civiles Touareg qui ont été massacrés publiquement hier, vendredi le 15 février à Léré par l’armée Malienne.

1.  Moctar ag Barha
2.  Oumar ag Ayaye
3.  Ibrahim ag Mossa
4.  Ibrahim ag Halay
5.  Med Balla ag Intamalou
6.  Houmaydi ag Intahana
7.  Abdallah ag Matta
8.  Mohamed ag Souka
9.  Iskaw ag Alkher
10.  Amaha ag Elmahdi

Click on the map below to see location of Léré, near the Mauretanian border.

Genocide Watch - Mali

Mali is using radio propaganda, urging “blacks” to hunt down “whites”

Free countries must step forward and put a brake on the Malian Army’s killing of innocent Tuareg civilians.  This will involve putting pressure on France to remove the Malian army from the north. 

There have been alarming reports of increased Malian army atrocities and executions of Tuareg civilians since the French began their intervention in Mali on January 11, 2013.  The French led the Malian army into the northern regions supposedly to fight the Islamists.  But many Malian army commanders and government elites have been supporting the Islamists and their narco-traffick for the past decade.  Instead of arresting the Islamists, the Malian army is seeking out and killing innocent Tuareg civilians and others. 

France has the major responsibility for this, because many analysts predicted this would happen. 

Countries that are backing France in the intervention should be aware that they, too, hold responsibility for allowing the Malian army into the north to kill Tuareg nomads and villagers with impunity.   The blood of innocent men, women, and children is on their hands.  They must make the decision to send the Malian army back to Bamako where they can be reformed, and begin to bring order to Bamako, where there has been renewed violence between army factions this past week. 

Today information is circulating that the Malian army has most recently massacred upwards of 30 Tuareg civilians near the town of Gossi, and 11 other Tuareg civilians were found killed in Timbuktu.  This is only one of many accounts over the past year of the Malian army’s massacres of innocent nomads and villagers in the north.  Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have issued official reports detailing eyewitness accounts.  Warnings have gone out many times about the dangers of bringing the Malian army into the north.

Free countries should be on high alert that, as of this week, the Malian army is alleged to be using the local radio station in Timbuktu to urge the “black” citizens of Timbuktu to report on “light-skinned” people – Tuaregs and Arabs – and tell the Malian army where to find them.  This is how the genocide began in Rwanda, with the use of local radio stations urging the Hutu to begin looking for Tutsi.  Free countries did nothing until it was too late.

A massive genocide could suddenly emerge in Mali – and we have already had plenty of warning.  The Tuareg people have been talking about their fear of genocide for months.  Many Tuaregs today have relatives – men, women, and children – who were tortured, burned, and killed summarily by the Malian army in the 1960s, 1990s, and early 2000s Tuareg rebellions.  The mass graves from those massacres still exist, and the perpetrators have never been punished. 

The Tuareg people have legitimate grievances that need to be addressed, not only by Mali, but also by the free world.  The racist government and military of Mali has targeted the “light-skinned” peoples of the north ever since the 1960s independence.

The video below shows Human Rights Watch investigators who spent some time in Sevare, Konna, and other places in Mali, to document the Malian Army’s summary executions. There are graphic scenes in the film, including the remains of innocent civilians who were shot by the army and thrown into a well, and the remains of a 14-year old boy who was shot and burned on the floor of a building. A Malian army officer says that everyone is suspect, and anyone can be arrested. The Malian army does not admit that their soldiers have been killing innocent civilians, although Human Rights Watch interviewed a number of witnesses who gave testimony about the details of these killings. The film gives an idea of how difficult it is to do this kind of work. It's difficult to find witnesses, because the army is watching them. It's difficult to talk with the army, because they refuse to talk about it. It's difficult to look at the remains and photograph them.

The article below is a true story written by Tuareg journalist Intagrist El Ansari.  The story details the injustices suffered by six Tuareg men who were trying to flee Mali with their families. The Malian army stopped them and took the men outside of town to execute them. A French helicopter pilot saw it, and hovered closely over the scene; the Malian army had to let them go.

Intagrist El Ansari.  Un hélico les sauve de la mort.  La Libre Belgique, 15/02/2013

Six Tuaregs tell how they escaped a summary execution

Intagrist El Ansari, Correspondant in Mauritania

Like fifteen thousand newcomers to the refugee camp at M'béra, in Mauritania, two Tuareg men, Ali and Ousmane, had to leave their nomad camp, which is located at a place called Taqinbawt (45 km west of Timbuktu). They are brothers, shepherds, and nomads from a  Tuareg tribe claiming Sharifian descent. They lived in a camp of two hundred people and had never before gone into exile, "even during the 1990s rebellion (of the Tuaregs)," when the entire area was emptied of its inhabitants. At that time, their community of religious clerics had determined at all costs to remain in their  pasture space, between the arms of the Niger River and a desert zone further north, which is habitable in the dry season.

Ousmane Ag Mohamedoun, the older brother, explains: "We are committed to peace. It's been a year now that we have lived in a very precarious situation. So when we saw that our area was emptied of its inhabitants and we heard that the Malian army had returned to  the region targeting people with "fair complexions" (Tuaregs and Moors, who are numerous among the jihadists), killing people before throwing them into wells, we realized that we no  longer had any choice but to leave.”

In the back of a truck

On January 25th, the men of the camp found a truck on the road from Timbuktu to Léré and they jumped at the chance to remove their last families to Mauritania; the women and children cannot go such a long distance on foot. At the refugee camp, they would be able to find those who had already left. They wanted to leave "before it is too late or the roads close completely," explains Ali Ag Mohamedoun, 35, the youngest. He added sadly: "We have entrusted our livestock to a shepherd who will lead them to the Mauritanian border; it will take several weeks."

The whole camp boarded the transport truck. Nomads huddled in the back were heading westward, those in front were headed toward Niafunké, slightly south – a route that’s less sandy for this heavily-laden truck. They arrived the next day, Saturday, January 26 at
Léré, where the Malian army had just arrived from Diabali. Although the truck was carrying mostly women and children, it was stopped in the center of town by the military.

"Two soldiers boarded the truck to search our things and point their weapons at the  women to intimidate us," said Ali. The Malian soldiers ordered the six adult men off the truck. "They lined us up, pointing their rifles at us. There was also a vehicle armed with a mortar facing us. They told us to raise our hands and keep our heads down," says Ousmane, the elder. "We were being watched by the local residents, who were mostly ethnic Songhay (Editor's note: the Songhay are traditional enemies of the Tuareg in the region). “They all shouted: ‘Kill them,’ even though we did not know them" he says, still trembling at the memory.

Ethnic tensions are very high in the region, exacerbated by poverty, underdevelopment and ignorance of local history, which has seen different hegemonic orders emerge in different eras; each ethnic group - Tuareg and Songhay – has had its time of dominance in the region of contact between the Maghreb and sub-Saharan Africa.  The Songhay Ganda Koy militia, who had attacked civilians during the Tuareg rebellion of 1990, had returned to service. The Ganda Koy militia attacked the Tuaregs and Moors at Timbuktu, Goundam, and
Léré, ransacking houses and shops belonging to those of "fair complexions" accused of being close to the Tuareg rebels and jihadists who had taken control of North Mali. An overwhelming majority of Tuaregs and Moors, particularly traditional leaders, reject religious radicalism, however, and do not associate themselves with the speech and attitude of the rebel Tuaregs.

While the inhabitants of
Léré cheered, Ousmane, Ali and their companions were mistreated and "driven out of the city," before the eyes of their wives and children, who were totally helpless.

"Those who are stronger than you will attack you and kill you without scruple," exclaimed Ali Ag Mohamedoun. "Once out of the city, the Malian soldiers pulled off our head coverings, and made us remove our tunics. We suffered all sorts of intimidation and humiliation," he said with difficulty. "From nine in the morning until two in the afternoon."

"Their high commander left, ordering his men to watch us. Everyone of us had a gun pointed at his forehead. They told us: 'You thought you were going to escape. I recognize you, you are with the Islamists, with rebels. You’ll see what’s going to happen to you today," says Ousmane.

This happened while the Malian and French armies were en route to Timbuktu. "Suddenly, we saw a helicopter flying above us, very close to our heads, twirling on all sides. The soldiers consulted with each other. One of their leaders left in a vehicle, and returned a few minutes later accompanied by their high commander and other vehicles filled with soldiers.   The superior officer then ordered his men to take us back to town and liberate us,” said Ousmane. "The grace of God was with us that day.  However, they had all intentions of executing us, and we had lost all hope of remaining alive." According to these Tuaregs, the helicopter "must have been French because we had passed them when we were entering the city and they were leaving Léré."

Upon return to their frightened families, the six men found that their luggage had been stolen or vandalized. "But the important thing was to be alive."