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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More