Tuareg Revolt in Mali
April 11, 2012, 11:57 AM
A+
|
a-
Print Friendly and PDF

The New York Times has an article entitled "All Hail Azawad" about the new breakaway Tuareg state in the Sahara:

The northern half of Mali has just declared independence, and would henceforth like that you call it Azawad, pretty please. “We solemnly proclaim the independence of Azawad as of today,” Mossa ag Attaher, a rebel spokesman, told the France 24 TV channel on Friday, April 6.


This includes Timbuktu, in case you were wondering.

Apparently, this civil war is an aftershock of the NATO destruction of Qatthafee's regime in Libya.

What I can't find any mention of in the article is what race the nomadic Tuareg rebels might be and what race their former overlords from southern Mali are.

The long Wikipedia article on Tuaregs doesn't mention race at all, either, oddly enough. So far, the Tuaregs have done a good job of scouring their Wikipedia article of all mention of race. And if it isn't mentioned in Wikipedia, does it really exist?
Also, the Wikipedia article on "Azawad" has this under "Demographics:"
The area was traditionally inhabited by Tuareg people, Moors, Songhay and Fulas (Fula: Ful?e; French: Peul). In the 1950 census, nomads (Songhay, Moors, Tuareg people) accounted for up to 95% of the inhabitants.[56][citation needed] 
Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu also have a number of Bambara, who settled there mainly after the 1960s.[citation needed]
That reads to Americans like the intentionally eye-glazing encyclopedia description of Uqbar in Borges' "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius:"
We read the article with some care. The passage recalled by Bioy was perhaps the only surprising one. The rest of it seemed very plausible, quite in keeping with the general tone of the work and (as is natural) a bit boring. Reading it over again, we discovered beneath its rigorous prose a fundamental vagueness. Of the fourteen names which figured in the geographical part, we only recognized three - Khorasan, Armenia, Erzerum - interpolated in the text in an ambiguous way. Of the historical names, only one: the impostor magician Smerdis, invoked more as a metaphor. The note seemed to fix the boundaries of Uqbar, but its nebulous reference points were rivers and craters and mountain ranges of that same region. We read, for example, that the lowlands of Tsai Khaldun and the Axa Delta marked the southern frontier and that on the islands of the delta wild horses procreate.
Moreover, the Tuareg's website features a lot of carefully cropped photos of rebels where you can't easily notice what race they are. 

Racial anthropology has largely disappeared from the textbooks, so who knows this stuff anymore? Fifty years ago, everybody who is anybody would have pulled their copy of Carleton Coon off the shelf and looked up the Tuaregs and figured out what is going on, but it's easier to pull the wool over Americans' eyes these days.

So, let's try looking up pictures. According to the NYT piece, the new dictator of what's left of Mali after a recent coup is Captain Amadou Sanogo (right). Sanogo

In contrast, the PR spokesman for the Tuaregs, Mossa ag Attaher, looks like this (left). 

TuaregSo, what I think is going on is that the dominant element in the Tuaregs is mostly Berber Caucasian (with some black admixture, plus socially subordinate black elements, such as ex(?)-slaves and a traditional caste system where some jobs, such as blacksmith, are always held by blacks) and these more or less white people are rebelling against black rule. 

But the part of Mali that Tuaregs dominate demographically is worthless desert (except for mineral rights, of course), so they seem to be claiming territory well down into the overwhelmingly black part of Mali, where there is some water. 

But, this relatively bemused response of World Opinion so far, as exemplified by the light-hearted NYT article, is due to few Americans being quite clued in yet.

Eventually, I suspect, Western wisdom will catch on. (Here's an Africanist website complaining about the "Racial Politics of Tuareg Nationalism.") And, thus, this likely won't stand. For example, Europeans people spent 15 years struggling to bring about black rule in Zimbabwe. Although I suspect sanction and interventions will be framed in terms of fighting Islamist terrorism rather than propping up black rule. 

On the other hand, Azawad is the absolute middle of nowhere, so the Tuaregs might get away with it for awhile.