The Forgotten People


Isolated and deprived the effects on the Tuareg people by globalization have been disregarded. So who are the Tuareg people? The Tuaregs are the native people of the Sahara who live a nomadic pastoralist way of life; they were separated by French colonial power between Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso to the South and Algeria and Libya in the North. The Tuareg’s homeland straddles the biggest energy alluvium in Africa hence the presence of multinational mining corporations in the Tuareg’s homeland is prevalent.

So how is it possible that the Tuareg’s, whose land is naturally wealthy, be so impoverished? Firstly, the Tuareg’s are effectively expelled from their homeland; they do not possess a sovereign state due to French colonialization they are further prevented by France from their own independent state as it would jeopardize French economic interests. Hence when the Turaeg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) declared the independent state of Azawad in northern Mali in 2012, Mali saw the return of its former colonial master: France.

France’s economic interest lies in the town of Arlit in Niger where the French multinational corporation (MNC) Areva, the world’s largest nuclear company, has two of its mines.  France is dependent on nuclear power for 75% of its electricity, more importantly it is dependent on the Tuareg’s indigenous land, now Niger, for its uranium. Areva has been mining in the country for over 50 years, in the process leaving 50 times more than normal radioactive waste. Waste that is exposed to desert winds hence contaminating local pastures and water meaning the Tuareg people, whose way of life depends on animals, are damagingly affected as the radiation causes the death of their livestock if they eat from local pastures.

Meaning the Tuareg are forced into further destitute; what is even more disgraceful and tragic is the fact that the radioactive waste from Areva is affecting the health of the Tuareg people who live near Areva’s mines deteriorating health and deaths have already been reported. So while France continues to grow prosperous the Tuareg people continue to grow ill and die. The Tuareg do not benefit from their ancestral land’s wealth instead MNC’s and France profit, to make matters worse France will double uranium production supply in order to provide itself and worldwide clients with nuclear fuel for 35 years.

The effects of this will be detrimental to the Tuareg people who inhabit the town as their local reserves will be drained and their land will become toxic. The exploitation of their land is simply an example of the North’s hegemonic power over the South and highlights that even though colonialism in the traditional sense may not continue, soft colonialism, still does this maintains the economic imbalance between the North and the South and prevents power from relocating away from the core. The soft colonialism of France can be seen in Niger’s decision to not allow full independent studies to be conducted regarding the impact of uranium mining. Why might that be we may ask, well perhaps it has something to do with the country’s president being a former head of Areva’s mine in Niger. This effectively illustrates that Tuareg’s well-being are subordinate to the profits of the MNC’s.

The victors currently are clearly Areva and France over the Tuareg as the wealthier Areva and France become the more into poverty the Tuareg’s fall into.

Marte Vokshi


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