The Tuareg peoples – or alternatively, the Kel Tamasheq – are a territorially concentrated, mostly nomadic Berber ethnic group in the desert regions of northeastern Mali, southern Algeria, western Niger and parts of Libya and Burkina-Faso (See Appendix, Figure 1). There are approximately 500,000 Kel Tamasheq in Mali, and various factions of this population have revolted against the central government in Bamako four times since independence. The first of these uprisings occurred in 1963-64, and have been followed by armed conflicts from 1990-96, 2006-09, and since January 2012. Consistent with the first, second, fourth and fifth of Edward Azar’s propositions for social conflict, the first three rebellions were intrastate conflicts motivated by attempts to secure greater autonomy within the Malian state due to security issues stemming from socioeconomic marginalisation and threats to Kel Tamasheq identity. Gurr’s invocation of Huntington’s assertion that ethnic conflicts are likely to occur along civilisational fault lines also appears germane to both the current and past ethnic conflicts in Mali.

Mali Conflict Diagnostic 2012