Frédéric Sautereau


Malian Refugees.


Since the beginning of the Tuareg rebellion in January 2012 and the takeover of the cities of northern Mali by Islamist militias, people have fled and sought shelter in the neighbouring countries, mainly: Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger.


According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees more than 250,000 people have fled from the area.


For decades northern Mali has been in the grip of Tuareg rebellions. The central government in Bamako is accused by the rebels of neglecting the infrastructures of the northern part of the country (i.e. roads, hospitals, schools, etc.). A minority of them also hopes for the independence of Azawad, a large region of northern Mali, where they amount to no more than 10% of the population.


For the most part these various rebellions have ended up with financial benefits for some rebel leaders and substantial numbers of their men signing up with the national armed forces.


Relations are still strained between the Tuaregs and the different ethnic groups populating Mali. Tuaregs are blamed by them for being the cause of the current unrest and for having handed over the major cities of northern Mali to Islamist militias. Because of this, many Tuaregs have also left southern Mali for fear of retaliations. There are stories blaming governmental armed forces for summary executions.


Meanwhile, refugees have settled in numerous camps which are scattered along Mali's borders and rife with lasting ethnic tensions. Assistance is more or less efficiently provided to them by the humanitarian agencies of the UN along with local and international NGOs. 


Many stories of refugees relate the atrocities committed by Islamist militias.

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