QUEST FOR A PROMISED LAND AND SECURITY IN THE SAHEL
The United Nations has clearly stated in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that indigenous peoples do have “the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally, owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.” The counter forces working against the rights of indigenous peoples are violent challenges in many parts of the world but particularly the southern hemispheres and even more particularly Africa. The Tuareg have always been a nomadic people who occupied the Sahel. Unfortunately when they have needed state support the most, assistance never came. Recurring droughts have brought great losses to the Tuareg starting with six years of severe drought that killed people and animals. From about 1980 to 1985 more droughts occurred, Tuareg who had migrated to other parts of Africa returned home to Mail and Niger along with false promises of government assistance. The tragedies of the droughts and failure of the government to assist the Tuareg created bitter resentment against the government. Biopolitics weighs the needs of the a population against that of the state (or corporation) exacerbating already high tensions between people and the government. Yet it is very important to keep in mind . . . “This is an indispensable qualification: small wars are rarely purely local affairs.”
Giorgio Agamben has made some very interesting points in opposition to the theories of Michael Foucault. State power “requires the production of a biopolitical body.” Continuing along this line of thought the “the inclusion into a political community seems only possible by the simultaneous exclusion of some human beings who are not allowed to become full legal subjects.” Contrary to locgic and common sense though the people of the land, the traditional owners of the land, the indigenous people are those who are not allowed full status of ‘peoplehood’ in location after location around the world. The current conflict in Mali is complex with layers of historical colonialism, post-colonialism, infighting and the embracing of very extreme fundamentalism in the form of sharia law. Although hopes were great the World War II would be the war to end all wars the flow of arms globally has made it impossible to maintain peace. The collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics may have marked the first tide of arms into the sub-Saharan. Kalashnikov assault rifles are cheap due to the “remarkably liquid trans-border market.” The contemporary war on terror and the huge arms market of left-behind foreign weaponry in Libya make the mix a tragedy especially for the Tuarag.
The plight of the Tuarag can be framed in the context of Georgio Agamben concepts of the ‘bare life’ and ‘camp’ biopolitics. The concepts are integral to the understanding of the this space which can be perceived as a space of exception. Mali is a space of postcolonial statehood in which ‘post’ colonial does not bring the hope of an ‘after’ colonialism but only continual tragedy due to geopolitics of the remaining colonist power, the USA. Colonialism is a state of being that can only be described as perpetuating slavery and non-personhood on groups of people. The injuries are not small wounds that heal as soon as the occupiers retreat. The wounds are deep and healing time is necessary in order to progress. But the Tuareg have not had a space in time to heal from colonialism. Now in the postcolonial Mali the injuries from colonialism are made worse. The perpetration of continued violence and lack of compassion towards the Tuareg peoples begs the question; has colonialism ever ended or is the contemporary treatment of indigenous people in Mali simply a continuation of foreign interests acting without consciousness.
Dillon, Michael. “Governing Terror: The state of emergency of biopolitical emergence.” International Political Sociology, 1 , (2007):7-28.
Gregory, Derek. “War and Peace.” Transactions Institute of British Geographers, NS 35 (2010): 154-186.
Lemke, Thomas. Biopolitics and beyond. On the reception of a ital Foucauldian notiron. Institute for Social Research. Frankfurt/Main
UN (Untied Nations). UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous Peoples, Articles 10, 26, 29.