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Birth of a nation

The struggle for self-determination in Africa and against corporate exploitation has taken a new, but little known turn. Tuareg nomads from the Sahara joined together last week to announce the foundation of the Tumoujgha Republic. They will go down in history as the first national liberation movement to announce a new state and constitution via an Internet blog. A World to Win welcomes this historic move by the Tuareg to assert their right to existence.

The Tuareg were split up by the creation of five African states – Algeria, Libya, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso in the post-colonial era. They first rose up against their new masters in the 1960s, in Mali. More recently there have been further rebellions in Mali and also in Niger.

The founding statutes of the Republic of Tumoujgha are based on the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and declarations made by tribal chiefs, going back to 1957, when they refused to become part of the new states created under De Gaulle in the Sahel areas of the Sahara. In a letter to the presidents of Mali, Libya, Niger and Algeria the president of the new republic affirms the Tuaerg right to sovereignty under the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples agreed by the UN on September 13.

A list of points and grievances includes:

The new constition declares that the Tuareg Tumoujgha Republic is founded on the historic area of the Tuareg nation – two thirds of Niger and half of Mali. Its language is Tamashek and its writing is Tifinagh. The secular republic has at its disposal the Taghd army and its capital is the city of Agadez. It is a democratic state based on federalism with the Blue Book as its founding text.

The move to create the republic has no doubt been encouraged by fierce military campaigns waged against the Niger and Mali governments by the Niger Movement for Justice (NMJ) led by Ibrahim Bahanga, and Asana Baggage, a mutinous Colonel of the Mali Army who led guerrilla actions against the Mali military. Well-organised and heavily armed NMJ fighters, guided by GPS systems and satellite phones, inflicted heavy losses on the Niger army in August and a US military aircraft dropping provisions to Malian troops was damaged by rebels as it was flying over northern Mali, where the government army is confronting Tuareg insurgents.

Yesterday army troops in Mali retook an area in the northeast of the country that was controlled by rebel Tuareg fighters.The US military and 13 African and European countries, including Britain had just completed joint exercises as part of an anti-terrorism programme in the Malian capital, Bamako. The exercises were initiated by the US were part of the “war against terror” under its Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Partnership. But Saharan politics expert Jeremy Keenan has pointed to the deliberate fabrication of a Saharan “Bin Laden” figure.

Despite the Tuareg’s fight for survival in two of the poorest countries in the world, their traditional lands have rich sources of uranium, gold and oil. As more nuclear power stations are being built throughout the world, Niger’s 3,500 tonnes of uranium a year and new exploration permits are handed out, the Tuareg lands are increasingly a target for global corporations. Indian, Canadian and Chinese companies are vying for control of the uranium sector. Meanwhile, uranium dust from mines owned by the French Areva group has contaminated huge areas of grazing land and water used by nomadic people.

See previous article and photos about the Tuareg struggle.

Corinna Lotz
AWTW secretary
28 September 2007

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