The government of Mali has struggled to end the conflict with Tuareg people, a nomadic minority who have periodically taken up arms demanding greater rights for their people, including political autonomy. Intensive oil exploration by Chinese and Australian firms ongoing in northern Mali, have heightened Tuareg demands for equity in natural resource exploitation in their territory. The Jamestown Foundation, a Washington-based independent think-tank, reported in 2009 that, while the July 2006 Algiers agreement calling for greater government efforts in developing the northern regions of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal in return for Tuareg abandoning their demands for regional autonomy has resulted in substantial surrender of arms, conflict still remained.
According to AI, in 2009 the difficult economic conditions in the country saw protests organized against the rise in the price of basic commodities and against plans to privatize the supply of water in Lere, in the north-west of the country occupied by Tuareg. At least six people were injured in November 2009, one of whom died later in hospital, when security forces shot at the demonstrators. Mali's response to economic challenges in the country further accentuate Tuareg grievances against the state.
NGOs have reported that Mali displays a high degree of religious tolerance towards minority groups. Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity said in its 2009 report on religious liberty that, 'no legal obstacles to conversion from one religion to another' exist in Mali, and Christians are free to preach without fear of persecution. USCIRF 2009 noted that members of the same family in Mali can adhere to different faiths and 'that followers of one religion attend religious ceremonies of other religious groups, especially baptisms, weddings, and funerals'.
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