News / Africa

Tuareg Rebels in Mali Appeal to Bruised Local Population

Tuareg fighters from the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad sit in their vehicle, in a market in Timbuktu, Mali, April 14, 2012.
Tuareg fighters from the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad sit in their vehicle, in a market in Timbuktu, Mali, April 14, 2012.
Nancy Palus
DAKAR, Senegal - Tuareg rebels in northern Mali are looking to reconcile with an angry local population. Residents there say rebels know they will have to co-exist with the people whether the future brings a negotiated solution or military intervention.
 
Leaders of the Tuareg separatist group Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, or MNLA, met Friday with youths in Gao to ask forgiveness for the difficulties people have faced since armed groups seized northern Mali in late March.
 
Days earlier MNLA leaders got on local radio in Gao, asking the people's forgiveness, appealing in particular to the majority Songhaï population.
 
MNLA and the Islamist militant groups fighting alongside them looted hospitals, banks and houses as they took northern Mali, which is home to several ethnic groups.
 
Since the takeover, food, water and electricity are scarce. Traders are regularly subject to extortion by the armed groups now claiming authority. And Islamist militants who swept into Mali with MNLA have carried out harsh punishments purportedly in adherence to the strict interpretation of Sharia they want to impose across the country.
 
As regional and international leaders explore military and non-military solutions for northern Mali, MNLA is reaching out to both mediators and the local population.
 
While efforts at negotiations continue, the armed groups in the north are bracing for a possible military offensive against them. In a recent communiqué, MNLA's transitional government, named earlier this month, said any calls for military intervention are "irresponsible."
 
In their meeting with youths in Gao, MNLA members wanted to know the young men’s views of possible military action by the regional bloc ECOWAS, and whose side they would they be on.
 
Malians in Gao say the situation has gotten away from MNLA. The Tuareg separatists said as much in their recent radio appeal.
 
Local people who spoke with VOA did not want their names used, fearing trouble with a mix of fighters they say carry arms everywhere, from the market to the mosque.
 
A father of nine in Gao recounted MNLA’s radio message. "They told us they regret what has happened," he said. "They said they never thought things would reach this point; they thought they would just carry out their revolution, but now they are trapped."
 
Another resident of Gao said he is not surprised by MNLA’s pleas to the local population.
 
"I knew they would end up turning to the people, asking for their forgiveness,” he said. “It’s all about trying to win the people over as everyone knows the current situation cannot last." He added, "These are sons of Gao. It is their very own families who have suffered.  MNLA knows they have to live with the people here, come what may."
 
As for MNLA’s appeal for forgiveness, he said, "When they liberate the north for good, and stop coming back and destroying all we have, we might pardon them."
 
The father in Gao said the majority is hostage to a heavily armed minority. "The damage has been incalculable. We are devastated and our souls have been ripped apart," he said.
 
His is one of countless families that have been broken up by the unrest. "Some of my children are in the capital, Bamako, others in Niger. Can you imagine what that does to a family of little means? So you see why I and most of the people here are not ready to collaborate with MNLA," he said.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact 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.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs