what a mess. when i visited mali in 2001 i heard a lot about the tuareg rebellion. (pictured above is the remains of a camp for tuareg refugees, then flooded, outside mopti). i never learned much about the details of the rebellion, but everyone described it as pretty brutal and they seemed happy to have it behind them. by that time, there was still a bit of "banditry" in the north perpetrated by small groups of former tuareg rebels who would kidnap the occasional foreigner for the ransom. not that that wasn't serious. it's just that by 2001, the political crisis in the north had evolved into more of a crime problem. even with the kidnappings i never felt unsafe going north to timbuktu, and i met other backpackers who were going further north, hitching rides with the camel caravans traveling deep into the sahara.
i'm afraid that this rebellion, despite its deeper roots, is only going to be seen and reported in the west in the context of al qaeda in the islamic maghreb. the malian government will play up the connection to get foreign assistance to fight the rebels, and the western press doesn't give a shit about these kind of rebellions unless it can fit into its larger u.s.-centered narrative.