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Apr. 10 (GIN) – The Tuareg people in their bright indigo robes may have won the war for a homeland in the northern half of Mali only to lose it.
The resource-rich Taoudeni basin in Tuareg lands bordering Mauritania and Algeria has drawn the interest of major oil and gas companies and in February, concession deals were signed with the Algerian company SONATRACH and the Canadian company Selier Energy.
With thousands of acres to be explored for oil, the nomadic lifestyle of the Tuareg people could face new restrictions of movement in the dry Sahara lands. Ownership of these wells may be another source of contention.
The Tuareg’s sweep of major cities of the north followed the overthrow of elected president Amadou Toumani Toure last month by a ragtag group of U.S.-trained junior officers who claimed they could not defeat the homeland-seeking Tuaregs under Toure’s rule. The army’s surprise defeat by the Tuaregs left citizens of the Malian capital, Bamako, struggling with the reality of a nation cut in two. “Have you seen the map?” a Malian exile asked wistfully. “I’ve lost my country.”
This week, thousands of Malians in Bamako marched down a central street chanting, ‘Liberate Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu!’ - the three regions in northern Mali taken over by Tuareg separatists and Islamic militants.
Renowned musical artists JeConte & The Mali Allstars released a track, described as a plea for peace, with famed Malian singer Khaira Arby, Vieux Farka Touré and Bassekou Kouyate. Tuareg songstress Khaira Arby is scheduled to tour North America starting April 26 in Dallas if a visa can be obtained.
Tinawiren, a Tuareg band highly popular in the U.S. and the west, was also caught in the eye of the storm and Tuareg takeover. Two members, the bandleader Ibrahim and acoustic guitarist Elaga Al Hamid—are reportedly stuck in refugee camps near the Algerian border and have been since February.
Finally, the resignation of former president Toure was accepted Friday, paving the way for a replacement, expected to be Dioncounda Traore, a former teacher, trade unionist and speaker of parliament. His appointment is part of a transitional deal struck between the ruling junta and west African leaders. He will organize elections - if possible within 40 days - according to the agreement.
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