Over the past week, over 300 videos have been posted on a Facebook group denouncing the Tuareg militants who have seized control of Mali’s northern Azawad region. Malians in France created the group “United against Mali’s territorial partition” with the goal of giving a voice to citizens “ignored by the media.”
Since January 2012, Mali has been going through an unprecedented crisis. Separatist rebels from the National Azawad Liberation Movement (MNLA) and radical Islamists have seized control of the main cities in the north of country. After two and a half months of fighting, the MNLA unilaterally proclaimed the independence of the northern Azawad region, home to the country’s minority Tuareg nomads. The declaration was met with widespread condemnation from the part of the international community, which had long heralded Mali as one of the most stable democracies in West Africa.
In the capital Bamako, life is slowly returning to normal after a military coup overthrew President Amadou Toumani Touré three weeks ago. On April 12, Diancounda Traore, the former parliament speaker, was sworn in as interim president. He promised to hold elections within 40 days, in accordance with the Malian constitution – not an easy feat in a country that is de-facto split in half. In his inaugural speech, Traore “firmly” called for armed separatist groups to “get back in line” and “peacefully leave the cities they have occupied.”
Our Observer shared his concern about the country’s partition with us. Please also share your views on the situation in the comments section below.
A video message from Said Abderrahim, who launched the online movement. He says he is proud of his country's diversity, and against any form of partition.
“Tuaregs don’t represent the majority of the people living in northern Mali”
Solo Niare is the spokesperson for the Facebook page “Tous unis contre la partition territoriale du Mali” (“United against Mali’s territorial partition”). He is a Malian living in Paris.
The idea of a video Facebook page was launched by Said Abderrahim, a Malian friend who also lives in Paris. We noticed that since the start of the political crisis, MNLA leaders have gotten a lot of media coverage. They took advantage of the political void created by the coup – for a while, there were no official government spokespeople.
We wanted to give ordinary Malians a voice. So far, we’ve received over 300 video testimonies. Most are posted by members of the Malian diaspora, but also by people living in Mali – even people from the north of the country! We ultimately aim to compile all of these videos and spread them on social networks, and hopefully also on Malian television.
What we want is for people to understand that Tuareg rebels aren’t representative of the entire population, and are not even representative of the north of the country. The north is also home to Songhai and Soninke minorities, members of the Peulh majority, and Arabs and Tuaregs who don’t support the MNLA.
Northern Mali’s independence would have catastrophic consequences on all of Western Africa. As soon as Tuareg rebels began making headway in northern cities, they were immediately followed by radical Islamists aiming to impose Sharia law in the region. The MNLA isn’t strong enough to keep them in check. Northern Mali would become a base for armed groups from around the continent, from the fundamentalist Boko Haram sect in Nigeria to members of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and former mercenaries for Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi.
We hear that the Malian army is worthless, but that’s not true. Of course, it suffers from equipment shortages. But we also have to take into account that rebels in the region are holding French hostages, so former president Touré wasn’t completely free to fight rebels in the north. It would be a mistake to underestimate the army now that the government is back on its feet again.
A message from two girls, one who comes from Mali's north and the other from the south. They recite their country's motto in unison: "Un peuple, un but, une foi" ('One people, one goal, one faith").
A message from Maimouna, who says she is in favor of unity and for peace in the north: "I want all my Malian brothers and sisters to be able to go back to living an ordinary life."
French rapper La Fouine also participated. He says he is proud of his country's cultural diversity.