February 16, 2013

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."