Sahel, a region in turmoil: from Libya to Azawad tragedy. Interview with the head of the Tuareg Social Council Moulay Jedidi

By Vanessa Tomassini.

This interview is available in Italian on “Strumenti Politici“.

In Libya, between progress and regressions, the political process seems to have almost sunk. The stalemate caused by political and institutional division, if prolonged, risks degenerating into a new escalation of violence. Contrary to political actors, the social and tribal fabric has so far managed to maintain its cohesion despite countless challenges. The electoral law approved by Parliament still presents points of disagreement. Among these, the possibility of participating in the election of their representatives for Tuareg and Tebu, born and raised in Libya without national numbers, but in possession of administrative registration numbers. The situation in the Sahel, in particular Mali and Niger, is also worrying for the entire region. We talk about that in this rare exclusive interview with the Supreme Social Council of the Tuareg Tribes of Libya chairman, Moulay Jedidi.

Thank you, Mr. Jedidi, for accepting this meeting. How the reconciliation process in Libya is going?

“We can say that reconciliation in Libya, despite having been started years ago, and despite the efforts made to achieve it, has not yet seen the light due to the obstacles it faces”.

What are these obstacles?

“Among the obstacles to national reconciliation, first of all the State has not developed a real project in this sense, not supporting the community reconciliation programs carried out by some tribes, social councils and institutions. The lack of guarantees for the implementation and execution of any agreement, especially compensation for damages suffered during conflicts. Furthermore, some parties have been equipped with weapons outside the state framework.”

Libyan tribes play an important role in reconciliation. Do you have the support of any key stakeholders such as the Presidential Council, the Government or Parliament?

“The Libyan tribes played a fundamental role in reconciliation, but they did not receive support from anyone, because the influential parties on the political scene wanted to exploit them for their own interests.”

After Derna, a delegation of which you are part visited the western city of Al-Zawiya. Who are your main partners and interlocutors in those cities?

“The visit to Derna and the area of Jabal al-Akhdar (the Green Mountain in the east of the country), affected by the floods, was coordinated by a preparatory committee whose members included elements from the south, center and west of Libya. About 500 people from all over the country participated in the mission, by land, back and forth, under the name of “the homeland delegation” and after a few days of returning from our brothers in the eastern region, from Tripoli we arrived in Zawiya, where the second meeting was held, in which we agreed that a third meeting would take place in one of the southern cities, with the help of God.”

What is the Tuareg Supreme Social Council’s view on recent political developments in Libya?

“The Supreme Social Council of the Tuareg of Libya closely follows the course of events in Libya, and although we call for elections to be held as soon as possible, especially after being informed of the results of the work of the 6+6 Committee in the Council draft electoral law n. 7 of 2023, which clearly authorized in article no. 88, holders of administrative numbers to participate in the elections, we were surprised by the presentation of the law by the Libyan Parliament in which that same article was deleted. Therefore, the Council issued a statement confirming that this law is flawed because it does not respect the rights of a segment of the Tuareg population who hold administrative numbers. It can be said that it is a law issued by the 6+5 committee and not 6+6. Many statements were also released by civil society organizations and young Tuareg holders of administrative registration numbers. Many reject this law and ask to boycott the elections and not recognize the results.”

Do you believe that the Libyan tribes are able to provide an alternative road map to get the country out of a long-standing impasse?

I firmly believe that the Libyans are capable of presenting an alternative road map to get the country out of a long-standing impasse, as long as the issue is left to them without interference from anyone.”

What do you think of the situation in Azawad (Mali) and Niger? Is there a coordination or communication between the Tuareg in Libya and the components of those areas?

“We follow with interest the developments of events in the Azawad and Niger regions because they concern us greatly and its consequences affect us directly. We are linked to the inhabitants of those areas by ties of blood and neighborhood, they are our brothers and our families, and we have issued numerous statements in which we affirmed our solidarity with them. We invite the international community and humanitarian organizations to intervene to stop the crimes committed against these populations, to denounce the program of genocide and ethnic cleansing underway against them. The situation there is very dangerous, it is necessary to find radical solutions to these crises, so that their contagion does not spread to all neighboring countries and everyone regrets it, since regret will not help at all.”

The media talks little about it, what exactly is happening?

“What is happening in the Azawad region of northern Mali is an ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Tuareg, especially since the current government of Mali has allied itself with the Russian mercenaries Wagner, and are carrying out massacres of defenseless residents. In many villages and cities, they killed elderly people, women and children. They burned property, killed livestock and poisoned wells. All this happened before the eyes of the international community and also with the support of some countries that aspire to the wealth of those areas. The strange thing is that we have not witnessed any movement, neither by countries nor by organizations that claim to defend human rights and protect civilians, to stop these criminal acts that amount to crimes against humanity. These actions are what sparked the national urgency among the people of Azawad to take up arms again, in defense of their existence, their land and their honor, after they had promised peace by signing an agreement with the government of Mali in 2015 under Algerian guidance and sponsorship. However, this systematic escalation, supported by some countries, has undermined the circumstances. All efforts were aimed at achieving peace, calm and reconciliation with the Government of Mali. What has happened and happens from time to time in Niger is not far from this scenario, with the same aims, reasons and objectives. We call on the international community to intervene to stop the bloodshed of innocent people and protect lives and property, before the situation spirals out of control and the entire region descends into endless war.”

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