- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
Back in March, I did a quick post about concerns in Niger and Mali that the Tuareg mercenaries recruited by Muammar al-Qaddafi would retun home better-armed — putting a short-lived ceasefire in the Tuareg insurgency in jepoardy. It appears this is now happening:
Hundreds of armed Tuaregs from Mali and Niger who fought for toppled Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi have started to return to their home nations, security sources said, raising fears of conflict.
"Hundreds of Malian and Nigerian Tuaregs are coming home from the Libyan front. Among them are former Malian and Nigerien rebels, but also Tuaregs of Malian origin who were in the Libyan army," said a security source at Gao in the north of Mali.[…]
Officials from Niger on Sunday told AFP that Nigerien mercenaries, mainly Tuaregs, had begun returning to the northern town of Agadez on the edge of the Sahara desert, after Kadhafi’s forces were routed by Libyan rebels.
"We need to fear a destabilisation of the whole Sahel with this new development. States like Mali and Niger are not prepared for this situation," said Mamadou Diallo, a teacher at Bamako University in Mali.
"What’s going to become of these fighters? They have vehicles, weapons and expertise," he added. "This is dangerous."
The association of the conflcit in Libya with the Arab spring has tended to obscure its effects on countries to the south. Qaddafi has been meddling in African politics for decades and his downfall is likely to have widespread and surprising ripple-effects throughout the continent.