What do the Tuareg want?

Andy Morgan, Al Jazeera

20141915053738734_20They are at the centre of the storm in Mali, but within this diverse group every shade of opinion can be found.

What do the Tuareg want? A facetious and yet honest way to answer that question would be to find a person called ‘the Tuareg’ and ask him. You might as well find ‘the English’ or ‘the Japanese’ and ask them what they want while you are at it.

A nation or people rarely if ever think as one. In the case of the Tuareg, difference and disharmony is exacerbated by their vast desert habitat and dispersed nomadic lifestyle, both of which tend to place allegiance to blood and tribe above allegiance to nation or ideology and militate against collective thought or action.

It can be argued that the very notion of a people called ‘the Tuareg’ is an invention of 19th century explorers and anthropologists, who adopted this supra-tribal and alien (i.e. Arab) collective noun with which to group together the Amazigh or Berber speaking nomadic tribes of the southern Sahara.

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