. Africa News .

Mali deserters in Niger face uncertain future
by Staff Writers
Niamey (AFP) May 30, 2012

At a base near Niger's capital Niamey, more than 400 Malian soldiers who deserted in the face of an uprising in the north of their neighbouring country are encamped with no clues as to their future.

"They have told us nothing, we have no idea what awaits us," said Hamid, a young soldier in a green turban who declined, like his comrades interviewed by AFP, to give his full name, under orders from his superiors.

"We eat, we sleep, we do a little sport, and that's it. We don't know what tomorrow holds in store for us," Hamid added, at the camp at Saguia, a village on the Niger river a few kilometres (miles) from Niamey.

Most of the 400 to 500 soldiers living in the camp are Tuaregs, who were led by Colonel Alaji Ag Gamou, formerly a pillar of Mali's army in the north of the country.

The troops fled late in March when confronted with a succesful offensive by Tuareg rebels of the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) in the vast desert north of Mali.

For almost two months, an area larger than France has been under the control of the MNLA and an Islamist movement, Ansar Dine, which on Saturday announced their merger, as well as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and criminal bands.

Ag Gamou initially took up a position with his men in the Labezanga region of western Niger, near the border with Mali. Before they were transferred to Niamey, the troops were disarmed, according to a Niger security source.

Access is banned to the camp, which is guarded by local paramilitary police. "We're too bored. In the desert, we are free, but here we're shut in, we want to leave," said Alhassane, one of Hamid's companions. "The orders must come down fast from the top."

Nearby, a group of soldiers haggled with a man selling clothes, while others formed a circle around a seller of grilled meat. From outside the camp, soldiers could be seen sitting or lying down by their tents. Others were jogging.

"We had no other choice but to flee," Hamid said. "The firepower (of the enemy) was superior." However, he did not want to expand on the rout of the Malian soldiers.

Agali was still wearing his military uniform, with a brown turban. A soldier in his 20s, he accused Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, who led a March 22 coup in Bamako that opened the way for the fall of the north, of responsibility for the "upset in Mali".

"He spoilt everything in Mali," Agali said. "While he was causing trouble in Bamako, the Islamists gained ground in the north."

To make amends for the affront, all the soldiers swore as one that they were ready to return to the front line to "fight the Islamists".

Hamid had a plan of attack. "With the help of ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States), if we open a front out of Bamako, another out of Algeria and a third from Niger, and with major air support, we are sure of recapturing the north."

Leaders in Niger, a nation which has itself been confronted with Tuareg rebellions in the past, have made no public comment on the presence of the Malian deserters on their soil.

Last Friday, members of Niger's Collective of Organisations for the Defence of Human Rights (CODDHD) came to visit the camp, but ran into a Malian colonel who denied them access, in spite of approval by Niger's authorities.

"We're not refugees, we're Malian soldiers," the officer said.

CODDHD coordinator Kanny Anbdoulaye told AFP that it was time that the Niger government "clarifies the status of these military men... Their presence worries us."

Ag Gamou said at the end of March that he planned to join the MNLA, but he later explained that this was a ruse to escape the enemy. Subsequently reported to be in Burkina Faso, he was received last week by authorities in Algeria, who are concerned about the crisis in neighbouring Mali.

Related Links
Africa News - Resources, Health, Food

Get Our Free Newsletters Via Email
Buy Advertising Editorial Enquiries


. Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

West African forces complete G.Bissau deployment
Bissau (AFP) May 27, 2012
The last batches of a 600-strong west African military force charged with restoring stability in Guinea-Bissau after an April coup arrived on Sunday in the unstable west African nation. "Our force is in place," an officer of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) told AFP. The 629 troops are based in Cumere, 35 kilometres (22 miles) north of the capital. Nigerian and Sene ... read more

One in seven suffer malnourishment: UN food agency

Women warming to white wines in China: experts

Groundwater depletion in semiarid regions of Texas and California threatens US food security

Earthquake hits Italy's balsamic vinegar producers

DNA evidence shows that marine reserves help to sustain fisheries

Warm, dry El Nino weather puts baby sea turtle at risk

BGU Researchers Test Solar Desalination System for Arid Land Agriculture

Not a 1-way street: Evolution shapes environment of Connecticut lakes

Yale study concludes public apathy over climate change unrelated to science literacy

Brazil readies 15,000 security forces for Rio summit

Climate change led to collapse of ancient Indus civilization

Slow progress since Earth Summit 20 years ago

Thailand's PTTEP, Myanmar to sign contract

Indonesia to tap its geothermal supply

Germany needs 20 bn euro investment in power grid: operator

SEIA Statement on Chinese Ruling Against US Renewable Energy Programs

Nuisance seaweed found to produce compounds with biomedical potential

Maps of Miscanthus genome offer insight into grass evolution

Relative reference: Foxtail millet offers clues for assembling the switchgrass genome

Lawrence Livermore work may improve the efficiency of the biofuel production cycle

Quake survivors' misery as Italy counts the cost

At the factory ruins, Italy workers mourn the quake dead

Rescuers find first bodies at Pakistan avalanche site

Japan refused US offer of nuclear experts in PM office

Fears as Latin America's largest trash dump closes

Ship's captain jailed over New Zealand oil spill

Germany, India in talks over treating Bhopal waste

Italy ditches plan for rubbish dump near Hadrian's villa

Japan's NEC buys Australian IT firms

Peru arrests 15 activists protesting Xstrata mine

U.K., Spain work on S. America investments

Clashes over Xstrata mine in Peru leave two dead

Memory Foam Mattress Review

Newsletters :: SpaceDaily Express :: SpaceWar Express :: TerraDaily Express :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News


The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2012 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement