Cablegate: Justice Slow for Victims Ofslavery in Northern

Published: Mon 4 Aug 2008 09:40 PM
DE RUEHBP #0702/01 2172140
R 042140Z AUG 08
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: A. 06 BAMAKO 0136
B. 07 BAMAKO 00145
1.(SBU) Summary: wo cases involving allegations of slavery
are curently pending before Malian courts in the norther
region of Gao. Both cases were brought by slavery victims
supported by the black Tamachek association Temedt. Founded
in 2006, Temedt received a Democracy and Human Rights grant
in 2007 from the U.S. Embassy as well as support from the
Canadian government, the European Union and the British NGO
Anti-Slavery International (Ref. A). In March 2008 Temedt's
president Mohamed ag Akeratane traveled to the U.S. as part
of an International Visitor's program focused on NGO
management. Upon his return to Mali, ag Akeratane met with
the Embassy to discuss the pending legal cases and the Malian
judicial system's apparent disinterest in the sensitive
issues of slavery. Unlike neighboring Mauritania and Niger,
Mali has no law criminalizing slavery and human rights
activists have, until recently, generally overlooked
allegations of slave-related practices within the country.
Temedt is trying to correct this oversight by publicizing
selected cases, lobbying the Malian government to criminalize
slavery, and pressing judicial authorities to award damages
to slavery victims and prison time to slave holders. A July
29 meeting with the vice-president of the Malian National
Assembly, who is a Tuareg leader from Gao, demonstrated many
of the challenges and misconceptions confronting Temedt and
anti-slavery activists in Mali. End Summary.
Slavery and Murder in Menaka
2.(U) Temedt has helped two victims of slavery file
complaints with judicial authorities in the northern region
of Gao. According to ag Akeratane, these are the first
lawsuits involving allegations of slavery in Mali since at
least the 1970s if not since Malian independence. Both
victims are receiving support from a lawyer, based in Mopti,
hired with funds from Temedt and the NGO Anti-Slavery
International. Each victim also belongs to Mali's community
of black Tamacheks, also known as "Bellahs". Black Tamacheks
speak the same Tamachek language as Tuaregs - who are
sometimes labeled as "white" Tamacheks - and are
differentiated largely by familial lineage.
3.(U) The first case accuses Ahmed Iknane ag Bakka of
slave-holding and the 2005 murder of a black Tamachek named
Ekadaye ag Abdoulaye. The case, which was filed by ag
Abdoulaye's sister Tatche, first came to Temedt's attention
in January 2007 when ag Akeratane and other Temedt founders
traveled with the Embassy to the north-eastern town of Menaka
to document cases of slavery and forced labor (Ref. B). Both
Tatche and ag Abdoulaye had previously "escaped" from their
traditional master ag Bakka but, like many former slaves,
frequently returned to work for him in order to avoid
retribution or worse.
4.(U) According to the complaint, ag Bakka abducted five
children from Tatche's family at gun point in August 2003.
The abducted children included Tatche's son Tamtchi ag
Allasane, ag Abdoulaye's son Almoustapha ag Akadaye and a
girl named Alimata Wallet Tamou. Several months after Tatche
and ag Abdoulaye notified authorities of the kidnappings, a
tip led the police in Menaka to ag Bakka and the five missing
children. Malian officials succeeded in rescuing only three
of the five children: Alimata, Allassane and Almoustapha. On
December 28, 2004, ag Bakka tried to recover Tatche and the
three children but ended up shooting ag Abdoulaye in the leg.
Ag Abdoulaye was transported to the local clinic in Menaka,
and then to the regional hospital in Gao where doctors
amputated his leg. The wound later turned septic and ag
Abdoulaye died on January 21, 2005.
5.(U) The statute of limitations for murder in Mali is 10
years. Tatche maintains that she filed murder charges with
authorities in Menaka following ag Abdoulaye's death in 2005.
Officials in Menaka contend that no complaint was ever
received. As a result, no charges were leveled against ag
Bakka until late 2007 when Temedt intervened. The complaint
currently before the court in Menaka accuses ag Bakka of
murdering ag Abdoulaye and demands the release of the two
children ag Bakka abducted in 2003 and continues to hold.
Compensation and Slave Holding in Gao
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6.(U) A second case, filed in March 2008 also with Temedt
and Anti-Slavery's support, concerns a black Tamachek named
Iddar ag Ogazide who escaped from his master in the Ansongo
area, between Gao and Menaka, in February 2008. The
complaint demands compensation for damages inflicted over the
space of 35 years by Ogazide's alleged master, Erzaghi ag
Bayes. In addition to compensation, ag Ogazide is demanding
the release of his 13 year old sister and 15 year old brother
still apparently held by ag Bayes.
7.(U) According to Temedt, ag Ogazide escaped with his wife,
Takwelet, after spending his entire life in the servitude of
the ag Bayes family. Several of ag Ogazide's brothers
previously escaped to Niger and Algeria. After fleeing first
to Ansongo, ag Ogazide traveled to Gao where Temedt helped
him obtain, for the first time in his life, a national
identity card. Ag Bayes quickly tracked ag Ogazide down in
Gao and tried to force ag Ogazide to return by using ag
Ogazide's three year old son, Mohamed ag Iddar, who was still
in Ag Bayes' custody as an enticement. Ag Bayes also asked
Malian authorities in Gao to arrest ag Ogazide. According to
Temedt president ag Akeratane, in March ag Bayes gave the
three year old Mohamed to another noble as a wedding present.
Temedt succeeding in winning Mohamed's release from this new
master, and reuniting him with his parents, a few weeks later.
8.(U) Ag Ogazide's case has received a fair amount of
coverage from Malian newspapers. In June 2008 ag Ogazide
told one Malian journalist that he had "never been to school
nor studied the Koran. All I know is how to herd animals to
pasture. I have always wanted to escape but people tell us
that if a slave does not respect his master, the slave will
not go to paradise after death."
Two Additional Cases in Menaka and Kidal
9.(U) Temedt is currently reviewing two additional cases,
one involving a women named Agiachatou in Menaka. According
to ag Akeratane, Agiachatou fled with her two children after
been passed off as a wedding present and is now under the
protection of Temedt members in Menaka. Another case
involves the abduction of a three year old boy named Moumou
ag Tamou who was taken from his mother, Talkit Wallet Malick,
in Kidal on September 4, 2007. Moumou's family and Temedt
allege that the boy was abducted by Hamed Lamine ag Alwafi, a
Tuareg living in the area of Menaka. Moumou's uncle notified
Kidal authorities of the abduction on September 6, 2007, but
was reportedly instructed by both the Kidal police and
gendarmes to conduct his own investigation and return only
when more information was available.
10.(SBU) Ag Akeratane said Temedt is convinced that Moumou is
another victim of slavery in northern Mali. Although the
significance of particular names may be less important now
than several decades ago, Moumou's name means "slave" in
Daoussahak, which is a mixture of Tamachek and Songhrai
spoken by members of the Daoussahak group of Malian Tuaregs.
His mother's name "Talkit" means "slave" in Tamachek. Ag
Akeratane said Temedt was hesitant about pressing charges in
Moumou's case because of current unrest between Tuaregs and
the Malian government in Kidal. "With the rebellion," said
ag Akeratane on July 22, "the government doesn't want us to
talk about slavery in Kidal."
11.(SBU) The July 8 carjacking of Temedt's coordinator in
Kidal, Koyna ag Ahmed, has also given Temedt pause as far as
Moumou's case is concerned. Ag Ahmed is the Ministry of
Education's top official in Kidal and was carjacked on the
road between Gao and Kidal after delivering all of Kidal's
high school baccalaureate exams to officials in Gao for
grading. Ag Akeratane said Temedt had no indication that ag
Ahmed was targeted due to his association with Temedt, but
that he could not yet rule this out as a possibility.
Trials Going Nowhere
12.(SBU) Judicial authorities in Gao and Menaka have shown
little interest in pursuing slavery cases. The homicide
portion of the charges leveled against ag Bakka in Menaka,
for instance, can legally only be handled by a separate court
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in Mopti. Officials in Menaka, however, have yet to forward
the relevant court documents to their judicial colleagues in
Mopti. Neither Temedt nor the Embassy have been able to
acquire details on the status of the cases in Menaka and Gao.
Ag Akeratane complained that officials in Menaka routinely
claim that the relevant judge is either busy with other
cases, out of town, or on vacation. Temedt has also
encountered problems convincing local human rights groups and
lawyers to lend support to slavery victims. Ag Akeratane
told the Embassy in June that Temedt had appealed in vain to
several local NGOs, including the Malian Association for
Human Rights, for legal assistance.
13.(SBU) On July 29 the 2nd vice president of the Malian
National Assembly, Assarid ag Imbarcaouane, told the Embassy
that Temedt's slavery claims were "false" and that slavery
was not a problem in Mali. Ag Imbarcaouane is an important
Tuareg leader from the region of Gao and said one of those
accused by Temedt of slave-holding, Erzaghi ag Bayes, was a
relative. After the ag Ogazide case hit the Malian media, ag
Imbarcaouane telephoned ag Bayes to tell him to release ag
Ogazide's son because continuing to, in ag Imbarcaouane's
words, "care" for the boy was no longer worth the trouble.
Ag Imbarcaouane said that black Tamacheks like ag Ogazide
were not slaves because they were free to leave their
"masters" at any point. He said black Tamacheks chose not to
leave because they were unable to support themselves on their
14.(SBU) Like many other Malian officials, whether Tuareg or
non-Tuareg, ag Imbarcaouane argued that slavery was already
illegal in Mali and that there was therefore no reason to
criminalize the practice. He said Temedt was simply trying
to stir up passions in the north for political reasons. When
the Embassy pointed out that murder is also illegal but still
carries criminal penalties under the law, ag Imbarcaouane
said he thought that Mali had, in fact, passed a law in 1960
or 1961 criminalizing slave holding. He also said he would
be interested in seeing the texts of laws criminalizing
slavery passed by neighboring National Assemblies in
Mauritania and Niger. We agreed to provide ag Imbarcaouane
with copies of the relevant documents.
Comment: Slavery in Mali
15.(SBU) No one is more aware of the sensitivities of the
slavery issue in Mali than Temedt president Mohamed ag
Akeratane. Renewed unrest in northern Mali's primarily
Tuareg region of Kidal has only compounded these
sensitivities, prompting some to peddle conspiracy theories
accusing Temedt of playing the slavery card simply to grab a
portion of any eventual settlement between Tuareg rebels and
the Malian government. Despite the evident hostility of some
Malian Tuaregs toward Temedt, their viewpoints on the issue
of slavery in Mali are actually not so far apart. Tuaregs
like ag Imbarcaouane and Temedt leaders like ag Akeratane
both stress that slavery in Mali has nothing to do with skin
color or ethnicity. Despite the labels of "black" and
"white" Tamachek that are sometimes used to differentiate
members of the Bellah community from Tuaregs respectively,
lineage seems to be the main factor separating those
belonging to slave castes from those regarded as nobles.
Both the Tuareg and Temedt leaders also quick to dispel
perceptions that Tuaregs are the primary or only offenders
when it comes to slave-related practices in Mali. Similar
practices can be found within the Peuhl, Songhrai, Arab,
Bambara and other groups in Mali.
16.(SBU) Both ag Imbarcaouane and ag Akeratane also agree
that many victims of slavery in Mali are either unable or
unwilling to strike out on their own due to poor education,
poverty and a deep-seated fear of the unknown. Ag Akeratane
notes, for instance, that passing a law immediately "freeing"
individuals who are victims of slavery would could serious
social dislocations because neither Temedt, local communities
nor the Malian government have the capacity to care for those
who currently depend on the families to which they are
attached for survival.
17.(SBU) Tuareg uneasiness about the question of slavery
should not prevent a discussion of the issue, especially
since there are clear points of common ground between Temedt
and the Tuareg. Convincing Mali to criminalize slavery,
however, could prove difficult. This is due in part to the
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sensitivity of any issue involving Tuaregs. It is also due
to Mali's traditional respect for consensus, which can at
times slow the passage of important social legislation (such
as laws outlawing female genital cutting or criminalizing
slavery) that has already been enacted by neighboring west
African nations but does not enjoy the support of key
domestic constituencies within Mali.
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