For the past few months, north Niger has witnessed an increase in armed conflict between a rebellious nomadic people, the Touareg, and government forces. Worries continue that the fighting may spread to Mali. Dutch Radio correspondent Koert Lindijer traveled to Niger to take a look.
The first nomad rebellion dates back to 1963, the second followed in 1990 and lasted until 1996. The third took place last year and this year conflict broke out for the fourth time. After the rebellions in the 1990s, Mali and Niger signed peace treaties promising more development funds for the Touareg homelands, more jobs for Touaregs in the army and civil and the construction of roads and schools. However, the north remains underdeveloped. Journalist and Touareg expert Ramata Diaoure concludes that:
"In the past fifty years, no political solution to the conflict has worked, despite concessions to the Touareg, but a military solution is equally impossible."
In the 1960s, the Touareg fought for the creation of Azawad, their own nomad state, but they have since dropped that demand. Spokesperson Seydou Kaocen Maiga for the Nigerien Movement for Justice (MNJ), says from Paris:
"We want autonomy, we want to provide for ourselves."
He strongly rejects allegations that the MNJ enjoys little support:
"Maybe the Touareg do not support us openly, they wouldn't talk to you about their sympathies. All we want is a better life. The Touareg in Agadez are living in dire poverty, while the region is providing great wealth to the government."