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Berbers: Armed movements

Last modified: 2013-06-15 by ivan sache
Keywords: berber | azawad | tuareg | crescent (blue) | star (blue) | morehob |
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Azawad National Liberation Movement

[Flag of MNLA]

Flag of MNLA - Image by Ivan Sache, 12 February 2012

The MNLA (Azawad National Liberation Movement) announced its foundation in a communiqué dated 16 October 2011. The MNLA was established as the successor of the MNA (Mouvement National de l'Azawad - Azawad National Movement, founded on 1 November 2010) after a meeting held on 7-15 October 2011 by different Azawad movements, the most important being the MNA and the MTNM (Mouvement Touareg du Nord Mali - North Mali Tuareg Movement, formerly directed by the late Ibrahim Ag Bahanga). The main aim of the MNLA is "to release the Azawad people from illegal occupation of its territory by Mali".
The MNLA attacked different posts and garrisons of the Malian army in mid January 2012, reactivating an old conflict between Mali and the Tuaregs yet to be solved in a manner satisfactory for the two parties. The MNLA was founded by Tuareg officers of Malian "origin" who had served in Qadaffi's army for decades and had to come back "home" after the fall of the Colonel's regime, bringing back several weapons taken from the abandoned depots of the Libyan army. The MNA was already supported by Libya, which provided asylum for the rebels in wartime, and, some say, also ammunition and logistic support. The MNLA has been accused by the Malian government to have set up an alliance with AQMI. The leaders of the movement denied any link with the terrorist organization, claiming that the Tuaregs are the best defence line against AQMI (Jeune Afrique, 26 January 2012).
On 17 January 2012, he rebels claimed to control some towns in north Mali, while the Malian government announced on 19 January to have repelled them. The unrest escalated since then into an armed conflict, the rebels seizing several towns and the Malian government sending helicopters to bomb the rebel positions. The conflict caused a massive exodus of the civilian population (up to 30,000 according to the Red Cross) to the south.

The flag of MNLA (photos) is horizontally divided green-red-black with a yellow triangle placed along the hoist.

Pascal Prince & Ivan Sache, 12 February 2012


Berber armed movements in Azawad, 1990s-2000s

"Azawad" (in Mali, "Azawagh"; in Niger, "Azawak"; named after a river) is indeed the name of the northern part of Mali and western part of Niger, which is the cradle of the Tuareg people. Over the last decades, several movements have struggled for the creation of a Tuareg state in this region. The relationships between these movements are not very clear, because most of them split and several of them fought against each others. Authoritative sources on the conflict are sparse, being either the movements themselves or official media from Mali and Niger, blatantly opposed to these movements.

Armed struggle broke out in Azawad, especially in Mali, because of the economical crisis caused by draught and the political situation in Mali, locked by General Moussa Traoré's dictatorship. On 6 January 1991, an agreement was signed in Tamanrasset (Algeria) by the Government of Mali and two Tuareg movements, the Mouvement populaire de l'Azawad (MPA, Azawad People's Movement) and the Front islamique arabe de l'Azawad (FIAA, Azawad Arab Islamic Front, founded in 1991 with the support of Algeria).
On 26 March 1991, Moussa Traoré was overthrown by General Amadou Toumani Touré, who set up a Transition government and attempted a reconciliation with the Tuaregs. Touré required a new Algerian mediation and commissionned, unofficially, the former French minister Edgar Pisani to write a report on the situation in northern Mali. Pisani proposed the set up of a Tuareg region called "Azawad", with an autonomous status to be discussed by the involved parties. Accordingly, the most representative Tuareg movements of the time, grouped in the umbrella organization called Mouvements et Fronts Unifiés de l'Azawad (MFUA, Azawad United Fronts and Movements) signed in April 1992 an agreement with the Malian government (Pacte national). The agreement was never applied because the Front Populaire de Libération de l'Azawad (FPLA, Azawad Liberation People's Front), a component of the MFUA, rejected it and decided to carry on the armed struggle.
Skirmishes then opposed the FPLA to the FIAA, followed in early 1994 by a war between the Armée Révolutionnaire de Libération de l'Azawad (ARLA, Azawad Liberation Revolutionary Army) and the MPA.
This was the situation in early 1995, as reported by Philippe Bacqué in Le Monde Diplomatique, April 1995.

On 27 May 1996, five armed movements officially dissolved and burned their ammunition in an official ceremony held in Tombouctou, in the presence of Alphar Oumar Konaré, the President of the Republic of Mali. The five disbanded movements were the ARLA, FIAA, FPLA, MFUA, and the Mouvement Patriotique Ganda Koy (MPGK, Ganda Koy Patriotic Movement), a movement founded by the Songhai and Peul farmers with the support of the Malian army. In the 1990s, the conflict had evolved into an ethnic conflict between the "white" Tuaregs and the "black" Songais; both parts have been involved into war acts and violence against the civilian populations.
This was the situation in late 1996, as reported by Robin Edward Poulton in Le Monde Diplomatique, November 1996.

A new revolt broke out on 23 May 2006, powered by a movement soon named the Alliance Démocratique du 23 Mai pour le Changement (Democratic Alliance of 23 May for Change). After the seizure of the Malian military posts of Kidal and Ménaka, the rebels and the Malian government signed on 4 July 2006 the agreeement known as Accords d'Alger, officially the Accord d'Alger pour la restauration de la paix, de la sécurité et du développement dans la Région de Kidal (Algiers Agreement for the restoration of peace, security and development in the Region of Kidal).
In spring 2007, there was a split in the 23 May movement, some of its founders rejecting the agreement to found the Alliance Touareg Niger Mali (Tuareg Alliance Niger Mali). This new movement expected to join the Mouvement des Nigériens pour la Justice (MNJ, Niger's Movement for Justice), founded in Niger in 2007 by a dissident from the FLAA (Front de Libération de l'Aïr et de l'Azawad, Aïr and Azawad Liberation Front).
The blogsite of the 23 May Alliance ceased to be active in January 2007 but the movement still exists, since its representatives met in Algiers in June 2008 in an attempt of reuniting the movement (as reported in L'Expression, 23 juin 2008), following a cease-of-fire signed with the dissidents in Tripoli (Libya) in April 2008.

Ivan Sache, 28 June 2008

Azawad early flag proposals

[Flag of Azawad]

Proposed flag of Azawad - Image by Ivan Sache, 28 June 2008

Nations Without States [mnh96] reports a flag for Azawad - a proposed Tuareg state - as a simple blue crescent and star on white. It is very similar to the MOREHOB flag, lacking only the inscription.

Ned Smith, 16 February 2001

[AZAWAD flag]

Flag of "Tuareg Liberation Front" - Image unattributed, undated

A flag horizontally divided blue-white with a red triangle placed along the hoist has been attributed to a non specified "Tuareg Liberation Front" operating in northern Mali.

Ivan Sache, 1 December 2008


Revolutionary Movement of the Blue Men (MOREHOB, Movimiento revolucionario de los Hombres Azules)

[Flag of MOREHOB]

Flag of MOREHOB - Image by Ivan Sache, 23 August 1998

A movement named MOREHOB (Movimiento revolucionario de los Hombres Azules - Revolutionary Movement from the Blue Men) was a Tuareg based organization with little influence in Western Sahara. MOREHOB fought also in Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Algeria.

Jaume Ollé, 23 August 1998

The flag of MOREHOB, white with a blue emblem, is shown on the Flags of Aspirant Peoples chart [eba94], #18, with the following caption:
REVOLUTIONARY MOVEMENT OF THE BLUE MEN [MOREHOB]
Touaregs
Sahara

The script on the scroll seems to be Arabic rather than Tamazghit, which seems to be very improbable.

Ivan Sache, 12 September 1999