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Mapping environmental conflicts and cooperation

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Tuareg Rebellions in Mali and Niger in the 1990s

Type of conflict main
Intensity 2
Region
Western Africa
Time 1990 ‐ 1997
Countries Mali, Niger
Resources Agricultural / Pastoral Land, Water
Conflict Summary Sahel droughts in the 1970s and 1980 contributed to the outbreak of Tuareg insurgencies in both Mali and Niger in the early 1990s. After a period of peace,...
Tuareg Rebellions in Mali and Niger in the 1990s
Sahel droughts in the 1970s and 1980 contributed to the outbreak of Tuareg insurgencies in both Mali and Niger in the early 1990s. After a period of peace, violence erupted again in 2007.
Conceptual Model

Climate Change

Tuareg areas in the Sahel regions of Mali and Niger were hit by severe droughts in the 1970s and 1980s.

Intermediary Mechanisms

The extreme weather events, coupled with the systematic marginalisation of Tuareg communities, forced many to migrate to Algeria or Libya. As Tuareg migrants returned by the end of the 1980s, both Mali and Niger saw an outbreak of Tuareg insurgencies.

Fragility and Conflict Risks

From 1990 to 1997, several Tuareg groups engaged in rebellions against the governments in Mali and Niger, resulting in several hundred deaths. In Mali, this also fuelled communal conflict between Tuaregs and other communities, such as the Songhoy and Fulani.

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 reveals a lacking capacity of the state to manage crises and/or reduces state capacity.Problems related to migration/displacements lead to growing discontent with the state.The perceived inadequacy of state capacity leads to growing discontent with the state.Reduced capacity and/or legitimacy of the state augments the risk of crime, violence, and extremism.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 capacity of the state to fulfil basic functions deemed necessary by the population and/or reduced public support for state authorities.Reduced State Capacity and/or LegitimacyChallenge to the state's legitimacy, ranging from peaceful protest to violent attempts at overthrowing the government.Anti-State GrievancesThe uptake of activities, such as joining extremist groups or engaging in illicit and violent activities, which increase the overall fragility of a region.Crime / Violence / Extremism
Context Factors
  • Water-stressed Area
  • Eroded Social Contract
  • High Unemployment
  • History of Conflict
  • Low Level of Economic Development
  • Political Marginalization
  • Unresponsive Government
Conflict History

In Mali Tuareg insurgencies and communal conflicts lasted from 1990 to 1995 (see Tuareg rebellion in Mali) and also fuelled inter-ethnic violence (see Conflict between Tuareg and farming communities). In Niger the Tuareg rebellion lasted from 1991 to 1997 (see Tuareg rebellion in Niger). Eventually both conflicts could be settled temporarily by promises of political decentralisation and development funds directed to rebel areas. However, as the provisions of the peace agreements were implemented very slowly, violence erupted again in both countries in 2007. These conflicts are also at the origin of the presently very fragile security situation in the Malian Sahel zone (UCDP, 2014).

Prior to the insurgencies, Tuareg communities in Niger and Mali held little political influence. The Sahel region encompassing northern Mali and north western Niger - often referred to as “Azawad” and mostly inhabited by Tuareg pastoralists – thus remained mostly excluded from national development policies and was characterised by a persistent lack of essential infrastructures and economic opportunities. This marginalisation forced many Tuareg to seek a better life in Algeria or Libya from the mid-1970s onwards. This dynamic was dramatically accelerated when Tuareg areas in Mali and Niger were hit by severe droughts in the 1970s and 1980s. However, economic conditions deteriorated in the host countries by the end of the 1980s, prompting the return of Tuareg migrants. Many of those who spent time in Libya acquired considerable military experience serving in Gadaffi’s army and created nationalist Tuareg movements, which facilitated the organisation of the insurgencies against the governments of Mali and Niger upon their return (Hershkowitz, 2005Benjaminsen, 2008). From 1990 to 1997, several Tuareg groups engaged in rebellions against the governments in Mali and Niger, resulting in several hundred deaths. In Mali, this also fuelled communal conflict between Tuaregs and other communities, such as the Songhoy or Fulani (see Humphreys & Mohamed, 2003).

Eventually both conflicts could be settled temporarily by promises of political decentralisation and development funds directed to rebel areas. However, as the provisions of the peace agreements were not fully implemented, violence erupted again in both countries in 2007. Both insurgencies are also considered as important factors behind the rise of Jihadist groups in the Sahel and the presently very unstable situation in northern Mali (UCDP, 2014MAR Project, 2004).

Resolution Efforts

In both Mali and Niger, the government quickly engaged negotiations with the rebels, leading to several peace agreements in 1991, 1992, 1994 and 1997, in which the two governments promised greater political autonomy and a higher amount of financial resources for mainly Tuareg regions. These political measures were backed by disarmament campaigns and efforts to integrate Tuareg fighters into the regular armed forces, as well as grassroots initiatives fostering dialogue and reconciliation between Tuaregs and other groups. The success of these peace initiatives, however, was only temporary, as fights resumed in 2007 (Lode, 2002; Hershkowitz, 2005).

Yet peace processes in both countries also show slight differences: As opposed to the Tuaregs in Mali who live concentrated in the north, those in Niger live more spread out across the country, which has helped curbing irredentism. In fact, the objectives of Tuareg rebels in Niger have varied from regional autonomy to installing a federal system in Niger at different stages of the conflict, creating divisions among the Tuareg rebels. It also seems as if the Nigerian government has done more to build trust with the Tuareg. For example, Brigi Rafini, himself a Tuareg, was appointed prime minister in 2011. In contrast, the Malian government has focused on military actions at the expense of development initiatives, which has stirred anger and distrust in the government amongst Tuareg communities in the north. As a result, Tuareg leaders in Niger are more inclined to cooperate with the government, whereas in Mali, there has been a proliferation of armed groups, arms trafficking and other illicit activities, often involving young Tuaregs (IRIN, 2013).

An important challenge lies ahead, as the governments in Niger and Mali have yet not succeeded in tackling the structural causes of Tuareg grievances, which include: political marginalisation, general distrust in the central government and state security forces and considerable economic disparities between peripheral regions inhabited by Tuaregs and the rest of the country. These grievances are expected to increase in the future due to a fast growing population, stagnant development and persistent societal and political tensions, compounded by an increasing risk of drought and gradual desertification (Fleury, 2010).

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.
Grievance Resolution Grievances have been mostly ignored.
Causal Attribution of Decrease in Conflict Intensity Conflict resolution strategies have been clearly responsible for the decrease in conflict intensity.
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 rebels (Mali)
Functional GroupNon-State Violent Actor
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Tuareg rebels (Niger)
Functional GroupNon-State Violent Actor
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Government of Mali
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Government of Niger (Niger)
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleInternal National
Government of Algeria
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
Government of France
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
Government of Mauritania
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
Government of Burkina Faso
Functional GroupPublic
Geographical ScaleExternal
Entry Points for Resilience and Peace Building
2 Disarmament, demobilisation & reintegration The two governments led disarmament campaigns and efforts to integrate Tuareg fighters into the regular armed forces.
2 Dialogue Mali and Niger engaged in negotiations with the rebels, leading to several peace agreements in 1991, 1992, 1994 and 1997. Furthermore, grassroots initiatives fostered dialogue and reconciliation between Tuaregs and other groups.
2 Compensation Mali and Niger promised a higher amount of financial resources for mainly Tuareg regions.
3 Changes in constitutional balance of power Both Mali and Niger promised greater political autonomy to Tuareg communities.
Further Details opencollapse
Conflict Characterization
Character of the contested good Private good: Can be owned and is depleted from use.
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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