April 14, 2013

Tuareg Refugees Speak Out

Thousands of Tuareg people have been demonstrating at the Mbera refugee camp in Mauretania, where they fled from the armed conflict in Mali, the racialized hatred, and the atrocities of the Malian army.  It has been really hard for them to survive in the Mbera refugee camp, because there is not enough shelter and food for everyone, and the children cannot go to school. 

Bamako recently sent representatives to tell the refugees to go back to Mali so they can vote.  But the refugees have refused for two reasons:  (1)  there have been ongoing arrests, torture, and killings by the Malian army of innocent Tuareg civilians, and (2)  the elections are not fair - for years, now they have been hijacked by government officials who are in cahoots with the narco-traffickers and jihadists.  They also pay people to vote for their candidates.  The Tuaregs want democracy and fairness.

The refugees are speaking out about the injustices going back fifty years, and the crimes of the Malian government and army against their relatives and ancestors. 

The two boys in the video are asking, "Why is Mali killing our people?" and "Why are Europeans and Arabs and other people free, but not the Tuaregs?  Why are we treated differently?"  They are saying, "The Kel Tamasheq want freedom and dignity!"

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Population Estimates for Tuaregs

3 Million is probably the lowest reasonable estimate for total Tuareg populations as of 2013. 

Exact figures for Tuareg populations are not available.  The national census takers in countries where Tuaregs live do not classify population by ethnicity.  Therefore, all figures for Tuareg populations are based on estimates.  Estimates range from a few hundred thousand to seven million – depending on what countries and social classes of Tuaregs are included.  Many Tuaregs feel that the population estimates are usually much too low, and anthropologists generally agree that the estimates are too low. 

The Tuareg population has been in flux geographically for decades, following droughts, conflicts, and political difficulties.  Thousands upon thousands of Tuaregs have died during major droughts, after the governments denied nomads food relief.  Thousands more have died during conflicts. 

Tuaregs live largely in Niger, Mali, Algeria, Libya, and Burkina Faso - but also in Chad, Mauretania, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, Tunisia, and other West African and North African countries, as well as Europe, the U.S., Canada, and many other countries. 

The three major anthropologists who have written extensive ethnographies of the Tuareg people are Johannes Nicolaisen, Jeremy Keenan, and Edmond Bernus.  They all acknowledge that it is difficult to estimate the total number of Tuaregs.  The estimates below go back decades – and populations have tripled or quadrupled since the 1960s. 

Johannes Nicolaisen, Anthropologist (1963)
300,000 “free Tuareg” estimated in 1963
Nicolaisen, Johannes.  1963.  Ecology and Culture of the Pastoral Tuareg.  Copenhagen:  National Museum.

Edmond Bernus, Anthropologist (1981)
“Being nomads, they are difficult to count, and census figures given for them are often underestimated (Bernus 1981:55).”
[Note:  Bernus does not speculate on total]
Bernus, Edmond.  1981.  Touaregs Nigeriens:  Unite culturelle et diversite regionale d'un peuple pasteur.  Paris:  ORSTOM.

Jeremy Keenan, Anthropologist (2004)
Estimates range from 300,000 – 3 Million.   “[The] difference is largely accounted for by definitional confusion of ‘who is a Tuareg’:  many former slaves and other formerly subordinate peoples, who still speak the Tuareg language … are often counted as Tuareg.” (p. 1)
Niger Tuaregs = 1 million probably (p. 1-2)
Mali Tuaregs = 675,000 probably (p. 1-2)
Algeria Tuaregs = 25,000-30,000 probably, based on language surveys (p. 2)
“These … figures … are further complicated by the facts that many Tuareg, especially in Mali and Niger, have been displaced from their former homelands following the pressures of droughts and civil wars in the 1980s and 1990s, and … [migration] in search of employment.” (p. 2)
Source:  Keenan, Jeremy,  2004.  Introduction:  Indigenous Rights and a Future Politic amongst Algeria’s Tuareg after Forty Years of Independence.  IN:  The Lesser Gods of the Sahara.  London:  Frank Cass.  pp. 1-3

The Tuareg themselves claim to be more than three million.”
[Note:  Most Tuaregs include any native speaker of Temasheq, no matter what nationality or social class.]

3 Million is probably the lowest reasonable estimate for total Tuareg populations as of 2013. 

U.S. Embassy cable, Bamako:
“Tuaregs likely account for more than 50 percent of northern Malians, and Songhrai around 35 percent.”
U.S. Embassy cable, Bamako.  April 17, 2008

Examples of estimates from non-anthropology sources:

1 Million plus
“The total Tuareg population is well over 1 million individuals.”
Niger = around 500,000
Mali = 450,000
[Does not include other countries; does not give dates or sources for figures.]
Keith Brown, Sarah Ogilvie, Concise encyclopedia of languages of the world, Elsevier, 2008, p. 152

1.5 to 3 Million
“Although their population of 1.5 million to 3 million spans five countries — Libya, Algeria, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso — the Tuareg are barely represented in any of those countries' capitals.”  Oct. 11, 2011
[Note:  Many Tuaregs in these countries would be agro-pastoralists or nomads living in rural areas.]

2 Million plus
Mali - “Tuareg and Maure 625,000 (5%)”  (2007)
Niger - “The greatest number of Tuareg, around one million, live in Niger, mostly south and west of Air Massif, with smaller populations in Algeria, Mali and Libya.” (July 2008)
[Note:  these numbers exclude all the other Tuaregs in other countries]

3 Million plus
“The Tuareg population in the central Sahara region, which currently numbers more than 3 million people.”

3 Million plus
The Tuareg themselves claim to be more than three million. Yet their number has variously been estimated at some 1.5 to 2 million, with the majority of some 750,000 living in Niger, and 550,000 in Mali. In Algeria they are estimated at 40,000, excluding some 100,000 refugees from Mali and Niger, and the same number is officially admitted to live in Burkina Faso. Proper figures are not established in Libya and other West African francophone countries.”

4-5 Million
These numbers are all estimates, and may exclude Tuareg who are assimilated into the general population of these countries.
Niger: 1.4 million
Mali: 1.5 million
Algeria: 590,000
Burkina Faso: 160,000
Libya: 190,000
Chad: 110.000
[Total:  3,950,000]

Almost 5 Million [plus other countries]
Niger = 1,720,000 (1998)
Mali = 1,440,000 (1991)
Algeria = 1,025,000 (1987)
Burkina Faso = 600,000 (1991)
[Total: 4,785,000]
[Does not mention Libya, Mauretania, Chad, Nigeria, or other countries]
[Note:  These dates are really old; population has increased since the 80s and 90s]
[Princeton links the countries to Wikipedia, but I couldn’t find these numbers on Wikipedia, so don’t know where Princeton got these numbers]

5 Million
“Today the Tuareg population numbers roughly 5 million centered around the countries that ring the Sahara Desert, mainly Algeria, Libya, Mali and Niger.”   
[No further information or source is provided.]
Hoffner, Barry.  Caravan to Class.  Marin Travels With Purpose.  June 30, 2010.  Accessed April 13, 2013.  http://marintravelswithpurpose.wordpress.com/tag/tuareg/

5.2 Million
“In 1995, the governments of Niger and Mali negotiated a peace deal with Tuareg rebel groups that ended a six-year rebellion. The deal offered financial incentives and the broader integration of Tuaregs into positions of importance in the governments and militaries of both countries, where two-thirds of the Tuareg population lives, about 3.5 million people.”
[Note:  This is only for Niger and Mali; other countries are excluded.  If 2/3 of the Tuareg population = 3.5 Million, then the total Tuareg population would be 5,250,000]
Chilson, Peter.  Mali: Limbo Land.  Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.  June 15, 2012.  http://pulitzercenter.org/reporting/mali-burkina-faso-border-conflict-nationalism-islam-tuareg-azawad

6 Million
April 30, 2012  The Tuaregs, a Berber people now numbering some some six million, inhabit the northern Sahara regions of Mail, as well as northern Niger and southern Algeria.”
Homeland Security Newswire: 
[2 Million in Mali alone]  “Northern Tuareg secessionists in Mali, who have already seized two-thirds of that country — an area larger than France, but with a mostly-nomad Tuareg population of only two million”
Homeland Security Newswire: 

7 Million
Somebody editing the Wikipedia article on Tuareg people claims they saw a figure of 7 Million, but did not provide a source.
“I also read that the total range of the Tuareg population is estimated at around 7 million (throughout Africa's Sahara/Sahel region). I'll try to find that link on the population figure.”

CIA World Factbook:
[Note:  The national census does not specify ethnicity – these are estimates.]
Niger = Tuareg = 9.3%
Mali – “Tuareg and Moor” are 10%, but Tamacheq language is only 3.5% 
Libya – Lumps Berbers and Arabs together (97%), but does list Tamasheq as a language. 
Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauretania, Nigeria, Tunisia, and Sudan (Darfur) - Do not list Tuaregs as a separate ethnic group.
There are also some Tuaregs in all the other West African and North African countries. 
There are also some Tuaregs in Europe, the U.S., Canada, and other world areas.