Troubles in Mali

On March 22, some soldiers in Mali overthrew the government of the country and took over. Mali’s leader was President Amadou Toumani Touré. These soldiers had been very frustrated with the country’s government because they felt the government had not provided the country’s soldiers with the equipment needed to fight off a group, called Tuareg, in northern Mali. Many Malian soldiers were dying because the Tuareg rebels had better weapons and equipment. However, while these soldiers were busy taking over as the new leaders of the country, the Tuareg rebels gained a stronger control over northern Mali and have since taken over a few towns, including the famous Timbuktu. On April 5, they claimed northern Mali to now be their independent land. They also declared an end to fighting.

Touré himself was part of the Malian Army and had forced the president of Mali to step down in 1991. He led the country for about a year until elections were held, and then stepped down. After that, Touré stood for elections in 2002 and won. He had been the president of Mali for the last decade. Mali was going to have the next presidential elections at the end of this month, and Touré had said that he would not take part in the elections.

The Tuareg people have lived in the Sahara desert area for thousands of years. They are nomads, and so they travel around. The area where they live is spread across several countries including Mali, Niger, Libya, Algeria, and Burkina Faso (see map). The Tuareg people have staged several rebellions in Mali (and other countries), wanting to form their own nation. They speak the language Tamasheq. The Tuareg people are nicknamed the “Blue People” because they often wear blue-colored clothing which leaves a bit of the blue color on their skin. Many Tuareg men cover their faces leaving just their eyes open. The Tuareg people even have a car named after them, the Volkswagen Touareg.

Mali was under the French control and gained its independence in 1960. Its capital is Bamako.

Did You Know?

The Sahara desert is the world’s second largest desert.

Image Credits: Antonio Cruz/ABr and Agencia Brasil for Toure’s photo; W. Robrecht for the Tuareg man’s image; Mark Dingemanse and www.vormdicht.nl for the Tuareg map