For Mali's Tuareg, music speaks of suffering and the Sahara


Monica Villamizar:

Tuareg culture became known in the West thanks to music, and the so-called Tuareg blues.

Every year, groups gathered in a desert festival outside the fabled city of Timbuktu. Even Western singers like U2’s Bono flocked there.

But, for the last five years, the festival has been canceled after violence ripped through Northern Mali. By January 2012, a Tuareg militia began to fight for independence from Mali and its own Tuareg nation. Guns from Libya fueled a revolution led by Bilal Ag Acherif.

But al-Qaida used those same guns and hijacked the revolution. All of Mali became a battleground. Then, French troops landed to stop the Islamists in 2013, and U.N. peacekeepers soon followed.

A cease-fire with the Tuareg was finally signed.

So, Bilal Ag Acherif doesn’t feel safe here in his own country. Under the peace accords, the U.N. troops or the Malian army must protect him, but he doesn’t trust them fully and his security and bodyguards are Tuareg.

Hi, Mr. Bilal.

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