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Mapping environmental conflicts and cooperation

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Conflict Between Tuareg and Farming Communities in Mali

Type of conflict sub
Intensity 1.5
Region
Western Africa
Time 1991 ‐ 1996
Countries Mali
Resources Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Conflict Summary During the Tuareg rebellion of 1990-1995 many farming communities in northern Mali formed self-defence militias. In 1994, these merged into a larger...
Conflict Between Tuareg and Farming Communities in Mali
During the Tuareg rebellion of 1990-1995 many farming communities in northern Mali formed self-defence militias. In 1994, these merged into a larger organisation known as Ganda Koi. Originally intended to protect farming communities against Tuareg banditry, it was soon accused of unprovoked attacks against Tuareg civilians. A further issue opposing Tuaregs and farming communities supporting the Ganda Koi was competition over land and an incompatibility over land rights. The Tuaregs were in favour of communal property rights in line with their mostly nomadic lifestyle, whereas farming communities preferred private property rights.
Conceptual Model

Climate Change

Although communal violence between Tuareg and farming groups already existed, the severe droughts of the 1970s and 1980s were aggravating factors.

Intermediary Mechanisms

Many Tuareg fled Mali as a result of the extreme weather events and, upon their return in the late 1980s, sharp competition over land further strained the farmer-herder relations. A further issue was the incompatibility over land rights, in which the nomadic Tuaregs were in favour of communal property rights, and farming communities preferred private property rights.

Fragility and Conflict Risks

During the Tuareg rebellion of 1990-1995 many farming communities in northern Mali formed self-defence militias. Conflicts often involved indiscriminate attacks on civilians associated with either Tuareg rebels or self-defence forces.

Climate ChangeEnvironmental ChangeIntermediary MechanismsFragility and Conflict RisksSocial and Economic DriversExtreme weather event is consistent with predictions regarding more frequent and/or intense extreme weather events.Extreme weather event leads to displacements.Extreme weather event leads to scarcity of essential natural resources.Migration leads to conflicts between migrants and residents.Reduced availability of/access to natural resources leads to distributive conflicts between societal groups.An increase in the frequency and/or intensity of extreme weather events, such as floods or droughts.More Frequent / Intense Extreme Weather EventsA specific extreme weather event such as a flood or a storm.Extreme Weather Event(In)voluntary long and short-term movements of people within or across state boundaries.Displacements / MigrationReduced availability of essential natural resources, such as land and water.Change in Access / Availability of Natural ResourcesNon-violent or violent tensions and conflicts between different societal groups.Grievances between Societal Groups
Context Factors
  • Insecure Land Tenure
  • Water-stressed Area
  • History of Conflict
  • Low Level of Economic Development
  • Political Marginalization
Conflict History

From early 1991, the north of Mali saw a gradual rise of communal conflicts opposing Tuaregs and self-defence forces of farming communities such as the Songhoi. The conflicts often involved land disputes and mutual suspicions. Drawing on inter-communal and racial tensions, these conflicts often involved indiscriminate attacks on civilians associated with either Tuareg rebels or self-defence forces (see Tuareg Rebellion in Mali). In 1994, different self-defence units merged into an organisation called Mouvement Patriotique Ganda Koi (“Ganda koi” literally meaning “land owner” in Songhoi), which officially disbanded in 1996 along with the last active Tuareg rebel group (Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, 1997Hershkowitz, 2005).

Insecurity and sectarian politics in northern Mali
Different factors contributed to the eruption of communal violence in northern Mali. Most apparently, the army’s indiscipline and failure to provide security for northern communities motivated violent responses by both, Tuaregs and farming groups. As renegade elements of the army were indiscriminately attacking and displacing civilians in the North, some farming communities profited from goods and resources left behind by fleeing Tuaregs stirring resentment amongst Tuareg communities. On the other hand, the lack of security in the North provided the opportunity for Tuareg bandits to raid famers and traders, prompting the creation of self-defence forces, which, in turn, got involved in indiscriminate retaliation against Tuareg civilians. This antagonism was reinforced by the perception of the government as being sectarian in favour of farming communities, in some cases even providing weapons to self-defence forces (Keïta, 1998Humphreys & Mohamed, 2003).

Drought, agricultural encroachment and land disputes
Farmer-herder relations were further strained by the expansion of cultures onto pasture land, some of which had been abandoned by Tuareg pastoralists during the severe droughts of the 1970s and 1980s, when many Tuareg fled to Algeria and Libya.  As they returned to Mali in the late 1980s, these herders entered into sharp competition over land and land legislation with farming communities: The Tuaregs were in favour of communal property rights in line with their mostly nomadic lifestyle, whereas farming communities - who had been privileged by past land laws - promoted the extension of private property rights. Given their privileged status, they were afraid of the concessions, the government would make if the Tuareg rebellion was to succeed, thus providing an additional incentive to fight Tuareg groups (Keïta, 1998Hershkowitz, 2005).

It is however worth mentioning that the relations between farmer communities such as the Songhoi and different Tuareg insurgent groups varied in function of their economic interdependency. Tuareg groups having close business relations with Songhoi famers and traders, for instance, were much less likely to attack these (Keïta, 1998).

Eventually, the Tuareg rebels engaged negotiations with the Ganda Koi in late 1994 and several accords were signed throughout 1995. The Ganda Koi officially disbanded in 1996 along with the last active Tuareg rebel group. They have however been involved in new attacks on Tuareg communities in the wake of renewed conflicts in 2012 (HRW, 2012). 

Resolution Efforts

Negotiations between Tuareg rebel groups and the Ganda Koi began in November 1994 and were largely organised by community groups. Several accords were reached throughout 1995, providing for the coordination between Tuaregs and farming communities to prevent banditry and demilitarise the north of Mali. These efforts were encouraged by the Malian president Alpha Oumar Konaré and backed by military operations to suppress the violent activities of community self-defence forces. The Ganda Koi officially disbanded in 1996 along with the last active Tuareg rebel group (Lode, 2002).

Demilitarisation and local peace agreements
Several factors contributed to the demilitarisation process. Firstly, the Government of Mali was able to regain control over its army and to withdraw troops from the North, which had been involved in human rights abuses. Mixed patrols were put in place with a more humanitarian role, facilitating food distribution and engaging in consultations with local communities. Secondly, the Malian army dissociated from anti-Tuareg self-defence units and conducted several operations to suppress their violent activities. The Tuareg rebels, on the other hand, were weakened and financially exhausted by their fight against the government. Lastly, local communities were encouraged to take responsibility for the peace process in northern Mali, leading the way to a series of self-managed inter-community meetings, the creation of localised peace agreements, and the resolution of local land disputes (Keïta, 1998Lode, 2002Humphreys & Mohamed, 2003).

Nevertheless, renewed Tuareg insurgencies in 2007 and 2012 have led to the resurgence of farming community self-defence units, such as the Ganda-Izo and the New Ganda-Koi (HRW, 2012).

Intensities & Influences
conflict intensity scale
Intensities
International / Geopolitical Intensity
Human Suffering

Influences
Environmental Influences
Societal Influences

Manifest Crisis
Violent Conflict Yes
Salience within nation Regional
Resources
Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Resolution Success
Reduction in Violence Violence reduced significantly, but did not cede.
Reduction in geographical scope There has been no reduction in geographical scope.
Increased capacity to address grievance in the future There is no increased capacity to address grievances in the future.
Causal Attribution of Decrease in Conflict Intensity Decrease in conflict intensity at least partially the result of conflict resolution strategies.
General opencollapse
Country Data in Comparison
ConflictNoData Created with Sketch.
Fault Lines Defining Conflict Parties
Purely Environmental | Cultural   ♦   Occupational   ♦   Economic   ♦   Urban / Rural   ♦   National / International conflict   ♦   Sub-national political


Actors
Participation Conflict Party     Conflict Resolution Facilitator
Tuareg communities
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Songhoi communities
Functional GroupCivil Society
Geographical ScaleInternal Grassroots
Government of Mali
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
3 Disarmament, demobilisation & reintegration The Malian government and army encouraged a peace process that included food distribution, engaging in consultations with local communities, and suppressing the violent activities of community self-defence forces.
3 Dialogue Local communities organised negotiations between Tuareg rebel groups and the Ganda Koi, leading to the creation of localised peace agreements and the resolution of local land disputes.
Further Details opencollapse
Conflict Characterization
Character of the contested good Common-pool resource: No one can be excluded from use but the good is depleted.
Structure of decision-making power / interdependence Asymmetric: The power to affect the environmental resource is unequal.
Broad conflict characterization Resource capture is not present.
Ecological marginalization is not present.
Data of involved Countries
Resources and Materials opencollapse
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