Tuareg MNJ get their message out

The Tuareg rebel group MNJ (Movement of Nigeriens for Justice) attacked the town of Tanout in Niger on Monday. They fought Ministry of Internal Security (FNIS), stole weapons and ammunition, and then withdrew - classic guerrilla tactics. The Nigerien government claims they lost 3 dead and 5 wounded, but the MNJ claims they killed 7 and took 11 prisoners, including the "prefet" (prefect?) of the town, and officers in the FNIS and police. After the raid, the FNIS attacked the MNJ as they were withdrawing, resulting in (according to MNJ) more FNIS casualties and the destruction of an FNIS 4x4 and military truck at the cost of no MNJ casualties.

This is an interesting example of an insurgency using classic guerrilla tactics, but adding a modern communications strategy. Hours after their attack, MNJ posted on their website their version of events, detailing casualties, loot, and exactly why they attacked Tanout - they accuse the prefect of Tanout of "subversive behavior" and of dividing Nigeriens against each other (interesting accusation from an armed rebel group). I read it as the MNJ showing their power over Tanout, including over Tanout elites.

The day after their attack they posted again, criticizing RFI for running a story without consulting their own blog first for the rebels' version, and basing the RFI story on the government's version instead. RFI claimed MNJ casualties, while MNJ claims they lost no-one. Similar to how American politicians criticize the media whenever the media runs stories contrary to the politicians' desired narrative.


TCN said...

If this is to be part of your thesis, then in order to understand the Tuareg MNJ perspective, you need to research more on the contributing factors to the conflict, as well as the current political developments in Niger. The object of MNJ's swift attack on Tanout was, as they stated, to intervene in a developing situation where the Prefet, a major government official, was indeed taking actions to divide Nigeriens, and encouraging hate campaigns against the Tuareg people in his community. The central problem in the MNJ offensive is social inequality. The Tuaregs have been contesting their marginalization for decades, but they have been ignored, disrespected, intimidated, arrested, and murdered for speaking up. The first Tuareg rebellion in the 90s ended with a peace agreement. However, the government did not fulfill its part of the agreement, leaving the Tuareg people in the same situation as before. Thirteen years later, the Tuaregs have taken up arms again, because the government refuses to discuss it. The national army has been ineffective, and has resorted to human rights abuses. The government has resorted to labeling the Tuaregs "terrorists," and running hate campaigns on national TV, radio, and the Internet. The Defense Minister has issued an appeal for citizens to form "vigilance brigades," and some local leaders have echoed his call. The Prefet of Tanout was creating an atmosphere of fear and repression in the local population, which includes many Tuareg civilians, by encouraging local non-Tuareg citizens to engage in accusations of their Tuareg neighbors in a witch-hunt that could lead to civil war. By contrast with the Niger power elite, which is secretive, corrupt, unreliable, and transparently prejudiced against the Tuaregs, the MNJ (which is Tuareg-led, but is composed of men from all ethnic groups in Niger) has shown itself to be transparent (via their blog) about their actions and intentions, upholding certain moral standards in the interest of *all* ethnic groups, and -- most importantly -- reliable. Nobody beats the Tuaregs in Saharan warfare!

For more information and sources for your thesis, visit: http://tuaregcultureandnews.blogspot.com/

Adrian said...

The telegraphe saharien at work, eh? Thanks for the comment and link to your blog. I will definitely be reading it closely! The Prefet of Tanout's actions seem to be similar to the Ghanda Koi militias in Mali in the 1990s. One question - how did you find my blog?

TCN said...
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