We met up with Ali Baba and the Knitter the other day to go and see Tinariwen at the Liverpool Phil. They had continued their spending spree after they left us so at the rate they were paying they probably found their 40 thieves , though maybe not for all their purchases. They had bought babouches and more wooden spoons and books on the Marjorelle and moroccan doors and the bags and jewellery below.
Tinariwen were on form. They were concerned that the world was deserting the Toureg and asking us to buy CDs to further their cause. It's all a bit more complicated than that but thankfully seems to be affecting Mali more than Southern Morocco.
Both Mali and Southern Morocco were tribal areas before colonial intrusions. They had not really belonged to any major state since the demise of the Songhai empire. The europeans states in late 19th and early 20th centuries started competing to add to their empires. If R Cunningham-Greene had reached Taroudant doubtless it would have come under British control but France won out in both Morocco and Mali and Spain made a late grab in the Western Sahara. Being a fascist state it managed to hold on until the mid-seveties when the old King reclaimed the Western Sahara in the Green March. This was somewhat of a disappointment for the Saharwis who had been expecting a self-determined own state. A war has been progressing on and off there ever since with Algeria throwing in assistance to the "rebels" whenever it suits them. The Tuareg country is inland from the Saharwi spanning southern Morocco and Algeria and northern Mali and they too have self-determination ambitions. The problem to any resolution is that the Western Sahara has 90% of the world's phosphate deposits and everybody wants a cut, preferably a large one. The Tuareg have been relatively minor players until this year.
When Gadafi was trying to keep himself in power he recruited the Tuareg as mercenaries. They got fairly large amounts of cash and considerably better arms than previously. This has encouraged their ambitions and they have managed to seize a number of towns in northern Mali including Timbuctoo and are seeking to establish an islamic state. This in turn provoked the mutiny and military coup in Mali and the intervention of the international community. Meanwhile the local people do not see any development investment, the principal benificaries are the are the multi-national mining companies (according to the Daily Mail represented by Mrs Nick Clegg to add some British interest) and the European Union takes no responsibility for the mess made by its colonial past; children are raised from infancy to maturity in refugee camps. Algeria and Morocco despite some rapprochement remain sufficiently at odds to prevent their border re-opening thus preventing the development of a pan-Mahgrabi market which would benefit both ,and encouraging the smuggler routes through Mauretania. All in all, a bit of a mess.