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Cablegate: Malian Tuaregs Will Remain in Burkina Faso Until Gobf

DE RUEHOU #0679/01 2051616
R 231616Z JUL 08




E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (U) Summary: As of late July, around 1,990 Malian Tuareg seeking
refugee asylum were living at various locations around Burkina Faso,
the majority of them in a refugee camp in Djibo, in Northern Burkina
Faso. These asylum seekers are currently living off donations from
local and international organizations including: the United Nations
High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), the Red Cross, and the
Government of Burkina Faso (GOBF). According to the director of the
Burkina Faso National Commission for Refugees (CONAREF), they will
remain in their respective camps until investigations on each asylum
seeker are complete and the GOBF can decide who is entitled to stay.

2. (U) The Malian Embassy here believes the asylum seekers had no
reason to flee Mali, and that most were already living in Burkina
Faso. Malian Embassy officials say they will assist Malians who
wish to return home. End Summary.

CONAREF: Malian Tuaregs have Real Fear for Their Lives
--------------------------------------------- ---------

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3. (SBU) CONAREF Director Der Kogda told PolOff on July 15 that
approximately 1,990 Malians were now living in temporary quarters in
Djibo and in other parts of the country. After visiting Djibo
during the week of July 7 and conducting several interviews, Kodga
said that many Malian Tuaregs currently residing in Djibo had fled
Mali out of a real and founded fear for their lives. Kodga agreed
that the Tuaregs were not the victims of current fighting in Mali,
but believed firmly that they did not relocate to Burkina Faso for
economic reasons. These refugees, Kodga explained, were previously
living in Mali in areas with fighting on both sides of them and
feared attacks from both military and civilian enemies. Having
lived through GOM-Tuareg fighting in the early 1990s, these Tuaregs
considered their movement into Burkina Faso to have been a
necessary, precautionary measure (ref A). Kodga maintained his
support of the Malians, and cited the poor conditions that they were
currently living in. Kodga felt that the Tuaregs would not live in
these conditions by choice, unless they felt they had no other

4. (SBU) According to CONAREF, none of the asylum seekers CONAREF
interviewed intended to return home, indicating, in the GOBF's
opinion, that the refugees faced a real and constant threat to their
security in Mali. CONAREF maintains that there was a need for the
refugees to stay in Burkina Faso for the time being despite the
release by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR)
of a report that found only about a dozen of the Malian Tuaregs were
actually entitled to live under refugee status (ref B). CONAREF
said they had not received a copy of the UNHCR report, but had heard
that the UNHCR report criticized their office.

5. (SBU) Kodga claimed that after giving UNHCR free-reign in Burkina
Faso to conduct their assessment of the refugee situation, UNHCR had
complained to the press that they had received no assistance from
CONAREF. Kogda expressed his extreme dissatisfaction with UNHCR for
the way they had changed their opinion about the Tuareg refugees.
Kodga bemoaned that UNHCR had not asked for any assistance during
their visit to Burkina Faso. Kodga defended GOBF actions, saying
that the Government was obliged to accept the Malians as refugees,
at least until they were proven not to qualify for refugee status.
Furthermore, the GOBF had done a great deal of work in managing the
humanitarian needs associated with the refugees, including the
creation of an inter-ministerial committee of government offices and
local and international groups and NGOs.

Malian Embassy Denies Threat to Malian Tuaregs
--------------------------------------------- -

6. (SBU) Malian Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, Sekou Maiga, Maiga
told PolOff on July 2 that, as far as the Government of Mali was
concerned, the UNHCR and the GOBF were free to do what they thought
was best to support the Malian population of displaced persons now
living in Burkina Faso. From the Malian Government's perspective,
these people were citizens of Mali who had not been endangered or
forced from their homes in any way. Furthermore, their
circumstances were in no way associated with the ongoing conflict in
Mali. Maiga felt it was possible that these refugees were seeking
asylum because they feared a repeat of violence against them such as
occurred in the early 1990s (noted above), but found this reasoning
difficult to justify. Maiga said that economic hardship was a more
likely cause for the presence of Malian Tuaregs in Burkina Faso.

7. (SBU) According to Maiga, many of the Malian Tuaregs who
presented themselves at the stadium in Ouagadougou have been in
Burkina Faso for as many as 15 years. They are not displaced
persons at all, he claimed. Maiga believed that many Malians who
presented themselves as refugees in Ouagadougou were already living
in Burkina Faso, possibly camped near the Mali-Burkina border near

OUAGADOUGO 00000679 002 OF 002

Djibo, and had received word from their fellow countrymen to come to
Ouagadougou for assistance. Maiga cited the example of one Malian
citizen in particular who had been in Ouagadougou for about a decade
and owned a shop at one the local hotels. Other Malians, he
continued, have been in Burkina Faso so long that they have
Burkinabe wives and their children are enrolled in local schools.
Maiga firmly believed that because of these facts, the Malian
Tuaregs did not qualify for refugee status.

The next steps and Embassy Comment

8. (SBU) Kodga said the next steps for this displaced population
would be completion of investigations on which individuals would
qualify for asylum status in Burkina Faso. Following these
investigations, which he hoped would end soon, the GOBF would react
accordingly, either returning the refugees to Mali or asking them to
apply for resident status in Burkina Faso, said Kodga.

9. (SBU) Comment: CONAREF seems disgruntled about how UNHCR revealed
their ruling on the Tuaregs, which could be the reason they seem to
be ignoring the UNHCR findings. It is also possible that CONAREF
wants to be cautious in how they treat the Malians, and to complete
their due diligence. The GOBF will be able to host the Malian
Tuaregs as long as there is enough financial support from donors for
their care and feeding.


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