News / Africa

N. Mali Militias Train Youth to Fight

People attend a training session at the FLN movement (North Liberation Forces) camp in Sevare September 24, 2012.
People attend a training session at the FLN movement (North Liberation Forces) camp in Sevare September 24, 2012.
Anne Look
Northern Malian self-defense militias are uniting and training young men and women how to fight, as they prepare for a future offensive to the North. The militias reflect a growing impatience among Malians to retake the territory from al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants who seized control in April. 

Leaders of the new generation of the Ganda Koy revived their militia in April, shortly after armed Tuareg and Islamist groups seized Mali’s three northern regions.

New recruits

The volunteers, young men in plastic sandals and athletic shorts and young women in tee-shirts and cloth wrap skirts, get a crash course in how to be soldiers.

Commander Djibril Moussa Diallo was among the ex-military officers who founded the Ganda Koy, in opposition to the Tuareg rebellions of the 1990s. He smiles as he watches recruits march in formation.

He says he stands before a thousand fighters, young patriots ready to liberate the North. These fighters are dedicated, Diallo says. They do not need salaries or payment. They have courage and they came as volunteers. He says they are ready to fight and die to free the North.

New recruits live and train at a government-owned compound in Sevare, not far from the Malian military base, just south of the frontline. Other militias train nearby, some with the assistance of the active-duty military officers. The militias are primarily from the so-called dark skinned ethnic groups of northern Mali: the Songhai, Peul and Bella communities.

The majority of recruits, like 25-year-old farmer Mohamed Maiga, are from the North.

He says he came here to get training to free his family. Asked if he is afraid to fight the heavily-armed occupiers, he says he is not afraid.  He says, if his militia gets proper arms, they can beat them (the North) in five days.

  • Women members of a self-defense militia calling itself the FLN (Front for the Liberation of the North) train in Sevare, about 600 kms (400 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako, July 11, 2012.
  • Women members of a self-defense militia calling itself the FLN (Front for the Liberation of the North) train in Sevare, about 600 kms (400 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako, July 11, 2012.
  • Members of a self-defense militia calling itself the FLN (Front for the Liberation of the North) train in Sevare, about 600 kms (400 miles) northeast of the capital Bamako, July 11, 2012.
  • People attend a training session at the FLN movement (North Liberation Forces) camp in Sevare September 24, 2012.
  • People attend a training session at the FLN movement (North Liberation Forces) camp in Sevare September 24, 2012.
  • A man attends a training at the FLN movement (North Liberation Forces) camp in Sevare September 24, 2012.

Weapons

The Ganda Koy and other militias make no secret of their search for weapons and funds. For now, they are using what few weapons they have for training.

Mariame Ouellette, 23, practices reassembling an automatic weapon. She says she joined up in May and is ready to beat the "light-skins," as she calls the Tuareg. She says a woman can do anything a man can do, that it is the heart that counts.

The revival of the militias has sparked concern that fighting in the North could devolve into ethnic violence or inter-communal score settling, as it did in the 1990s.

Other ethnic groups in the North felt excluded from the peace agreements that ended the Tuareg rebellions. Diallo and other members of the Ganda Koy say they felt the Tuareg, who are a minority population in the North, were "rewarded" with military posts and business perks, while the Ganda Koy were disbanded and sent back to their fields.

Still, Diallo says abuses will not be tolerated. This fight is not about vengeance, he says. It is about getting back their dignity. Diallo says they must liberate the North at all cost. However, if certain elements disregard orders and set out on revenge, he says they will be stopped.

Criticism

Not all northerners support the militias.  Some say they are dangerous, others that they are opportunistic.

Twenty-five-year-old student Abdoulaye Akili, from Gao, says the militias just want money. He says young people joining up are innocents. They have never held a gun before. They are motivated by rage and panic, but once in battle, he says they will run away like the army did. And after the crisis, he says, they will expect to be paid or integrated into the army. He says they are unemployed with no education and they think this is way to make money.

Mali appears headed toward an internationally backed offensive to the North. It is not clear what, if any, official role militias like the Ganda Koy could play.

In Sevare, the Ganda Koy, by definition a self-defense militia, is getting ready to go on the offensive.

A group of recruits lays flat behind bushes and simulates gunfire as they grip battered weapons.  Their opponents creep up low and then sweep around the side of the field to take the gunmen from behind. It looks so easy.

Six northern militias have united under a loose coalition known as the Patriotic Forces of Resistance.  Although the militias retain independent military commands, they “share the same vision.”

FPR President Harouna Toureh says negotiation is no longer an option for the North.

He says what is needed is a "war of reconciliation."

Toureh says that may sound paradoxical, but that is what they will do. He says it means that they are going to free the territory with their army and then weed out "these evildoers", once and for all, so that, again, the various populations can live together in peace.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs