The Sahel is a large geographical region spanning a range of African states located in the Sahara Desert. While many populations live on the desert periphery, the Tuareg live across the Sahel, with large populations in Niger and Mali and noteworthy communities in Burkina Faso, Algeria, and Libya. French troops consolidated control of the region in 1890, but an official colony was not formed until 1922. While this relatively brief colonial experience only lasted for 32 years, the French administration established the borders and political structures which were inherited by newly independent states such as Niger in 1960.1 These borders disrupted the nomadic, pastoralist life of most Tuaregs. A series of droughts in the 1970s and 1980s devastated Tuareg communities, driving many to flee to Libya and join Muammar Gaddafi’s Islamic Legion. In 1991, the Government of Niger hosted a national conference to establish democratic institutions and a constitution before multi-party elections were held in 1992. It was in this context that a group of Tuareg former Islamic Legionnaires created the Front for the Liberation of Air and Azawad (FLAA) on 19 October 1991 and began an insurgency against the Nigerien government, demanding the introduction of a federal system, favourable recruitment quotas for the civil service and military, investment in northern Niger, and employment in the Arlit uranium mines.2 The Government of France mediated secret talks in 1993, resulting in a peace agreement that met, on paper at least, many of the FLAA demands. Just a month later, however, the FLAA split into several groups due to differences over the agreement and the conflict resumed.3
In October 1993, the various Tuareg armed groups in Niger merged to form the Coordination for Armed Resistance. After launching a series of attacks in 1994, this new organisation entered into negotiations with the Government of Niger in June 1994. These talks were mediated by the governments of Algeria, Burkina Faso, and France, and concluded with the signing of the Ouagadougou Agreement on 9 October 1994. The Tuareg umbrella organisation collapsed again after the talks and yet another merger took place in early 1995, creating the Organisation of the Armed Resistance (ORA). The ORA negotiated another peace agreement in Niamey on 24 April 1995, this time formally ending the conflict.4 Although some Tuareg groups initially dismissed the agreement, talks held in Algeria brought them into the peace process on 23 November 1997, ending the conflict. Niger enjoyed a decade of relative peace after the 1991-1997 Tuareg rebellion.