Interview with Moussa AG Acharatoumane, founder of the M.N.A, and External Affairs Officer of the association « Amakoul » by the UN NGLS (Non-Governmental Liaison Service)
1. Could you tell us a little about the activities in your community? What are some of the main objectives?
My community (Tuareg) undertakes various activities to gain greater autonomy and to improve our conditions of life in the Sahara, notably in the Azawad (North Mali). The Tuareg in the Azawad are a population of nomadic origin – we move from one place to another according to the seasons and according to the pastures for our flocks. Since Mali’s independence, the Tuareg in the Azawad have been on a very difficult footing with the country’s central government as they have experienced oppression and marginalization – under the silence of the international community. Although, in 2006, agreements were signed that would grant the Tuareg with more autonomy over their territory, hostilities continue up to this day. New phenomena, such as illegal trafficking and terrorism are harming the indigenous populations. Moreover, the problems of climatic and environmental order are leading the Tuareg into poverty since they are loosing their main source of income which is based on livestock commerce. A change for the Tuareg would mean that their claims are taken into account, that they are given the right to manage their own internal matters and therefore would be able to gain back the liberty they lost since their lands were taken away.
2. What brings you to the 4th session of the Expert Mechanism? What are some of the main issues emerging out of this year’s discussions? What do you expect to get out of it that you can take back home with you?
There are multiple reasons for my participation in this session. Meetings such as the EMRIP (Expert Mechanism on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples) are a rare occasion for young Tuareg to be able to raise questions about the situation of the Tuareg in the Azawad in an international context; and to express the claims of their people. This year, the debate turned mainly to the following themes: “participation in decision-making,” “implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples,” and “the right of the Indigenous Peoples to education.” I have high expectations concerning the results of this fourth session of the EMRIP, especially in terms of the implementation of the Declaration. Moreover, I have high expectations concerning the raising of awareness among other indigenous delegates on the situation of the Tuareg in the Azawad.
3. In your opinion, what are some of the main obstacles holding back progress in the full implementation of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?
I will define three obstacles:
1. The delay of the application of this Declaration: First, it is a Declaration that is ignored by concerned populations. For example, very few Tuareg in the Azawad know about this Declaration. Therefore, there is a lot of work that must be done in raising awareness and, according to me, this could be done with the help of local native organizations and other civil society organizations to increase the popularization and broadcasting of this Declaration among indigenous populations.
2. The implementation of this Declaration could be realized if the UN system would give more support to indigenous organizations in order to reinforce their capacity to work with security and serenity. It would also be important for the organizations to find a field of work where they don’t need to be dependent on the central government. In the case of the Azawad, this would allow us to obtain liberty in our actions in the field and that can only be constructive for our populations.
3. There should be a system that obliges the countries that adopted this Declaration to increase their involvement in facilitating the work for the implementation of this Declaration, because the countries are generally the first ones to violate the items of this Declaration.
4. What do you feel the UN system could do to help ensure the implementation of the recommendations stated in the Declaration at the national level? What about in terms of promoting and protecting the rights of the more vulnerable groups within indigenous populations, including women, the disabled and the elderly? What about their participation in decision-making processes?
The UN system should start by guaranteeing a certain liberty of work for the populations within States. It should also try to work more closely with the organizations on the ground by using those UN agencies that collaborate regularly with native’s organizations.
In terms of the most vulnerable groups of the indigenous populations, there is a small exception in the Tuareg population; and that is the case of women. Women have always enjoyed many liberties and play an important role in promoting our rights. In the Tuareg community the women are engaged in many areas, some of them are engaged in the process of implementation of the Declaration. Also, women have always taken the role of knowledge possessors in our community; they are in charge of the teaching of the Tifinagh (Tuareg alphabet) to the children; and they compose most of the poems destined to encourage the men or teach the young the values of the Tuareg. They are also involved in political matters. An example of this is the association of the women of the Azawad created in Kidal some months ago. The UN should help these women through its different agencies to advance the indigenous questions in the Azawad. The role of a Tuareg woman within its community is an example to be explored in the framework of the emancipation of women at all the levels.
5. Which recommendations would you have for the Expert Mechanism to present at the Human Rights Council?
1- Create special structures that will accompany the vulnerable people in their actions, to let them benefit to the maximum from financial support and from the acceptance of States at the different levels.
2- To allow more women to participate in the different meetings of the Expert Mechanism so that they are able to understand the issues at hand and take these issues into account into their activities.
3- The youth represent an important force with youth movements emerging around the world asking for a change in the highest levels of States and systems of governance. It is relevant in my opinion to try to accompany these young people in their actions, in their fight against all injustice in the world.