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Cablegate: Arrest and Release of a Child Trafficker in Nioro

VZCZCXRO7782
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHBP #0839/01 3640732
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 300732Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY BAMAKO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1005
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 0710
RUEHNK/AMEMBASSY NOUAKCHOTT 0307

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BAMAKO 000839

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV ELAB KFRD SOCI ML
SUBJECT: ARREST AND RELEASE OF A CHILD TRAFFICKER IN NIORO
DU SAHEL

1. (SBU) On December 17, Enda-Tiers Monde, an NGO that
combats trafficking in children in west Africa, informed the
Embassy that Malian authorities in Nioro du Sahel, Koulikoro
Region arrested child trafficker Sidamar ag Cherif and
rescued eight Tuareg children originally from Kidal. Ag
Cherif was reportedly taking the children to a Koranic school
in Mauritania that Dawa Islamiyya owns and operates, for
which he claimed to have parental consent. When Ag Cherif
failed to present the requisite travel documents for the
children, he was promptly arrested. The children were
subsequently escorted to an Enda Tiers Monde safehouse in
Bamako, where they awaited return to Kidal. Enda told the
Embassy that a National Assembly Deputy from Kidal agreed
with the Ministry for the Advancement of Women and Children
(MPFEF) that he would escort the children home.

2. (SBU) On December 28, Embassy called the prefect of Nioro,
Lieutenant Colonel Falle Tangare, to confirm that ag Cherif
remained in custody. Tangare recounted that, shortly after
having arrested ag Cherif, he received orders from a superior
at the Ministry of Territorial Administration in Bamako to
let the trafficker go. Tangare was told that the Ministry
had "investigated" the case and determined that the parents
of the eight children had, in fact, given their consent to
travel with ag Cherif. The fact that ag Cherif had presented
false travel documents did not arise as a concern. Following
orders, Tangara requested that the prosecutor in Nioro repeal
the charges against ag Cherif and subsequently released him.

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3. (SBU) Rather than being reunited with their families as
the Kidal deputy promised, the children had once again been
placed in the custody of ag Cherif, who, Tangara said,
attempted again to take them to Mauritania. Recognizing the
travel documents as false, Mauritanian border authorities
refused the group entry. Ag Cherif and the eight children
returned to Nioro, where they await another opportunity to
cross into Mauritania.

4. (SBU) Tangara said he was frustrated about this case, as
it was the second time this year ag Cherif had been arrested
in Nioro. In June, Enda Tiers Monde rescued a group of 16
children being trafficked by ag Cherif into Mauritania to
attend the same school operated by Dawa Islamiyya. The
circumstances of ag Cherif's release at that time remain
unclear. Asked why he had been ordered to release the
trafficker this time, Tangara said questions involving
communities in northern Mali were complicated and often
lacked transparency. For the sake of avoiding conflict with
powerful northern individuals, Tangara said the GOM sometimes
turned a blind eye to the illicit activities of those same
individuals.

----------------------------------
GOM Official Shirks Responsibility
----------------------------------

5. (SBU) In a subsequent telephone conversation with
Secretary General of the Ministry of Territorial
Administration, Mamadou Seydou Toure, Toure was emphatic that
he had no control over this case and curtly told the Embassy
to seek answers from MPFEF, the lead ministry for anti-TIP
efforts. Although MPFEF is charged with coordinating
anti-TIP activities, it lacks the power and resources to deal
with trafficking effectively. Toure, who has been a close
contact of the Embassy, dismissed the Embassy's concerns that
an official from his ministry may have ordered ag Cherif's
release, stating, "Even if your Charge came here I would have
nothing to tell him."

-----------------------------
Meeting with Justice Minister
-----------------------------

6. (SBU) The same afternoon, Charge met with Minister of
Justice Maharafa Traore and informed him of the situation,
including the fact that Tangara had been ordered by his
superiors to release ag Cherif. Charge noted that Mali has
slipped to Tier 2 Watchlist status in State Department
rankings of countries' efforts to combat trafficking, and
stated that U.S. law requires the Department to withhold all
but humanitarian assistance from countries that fail to show
progress two years in a row. While there are waiver
provisions, this could at some point jeopardize spending in
such areas as education, economic growth, support for
decentralization and democracy, and military capacity
building. The Minister said he understood, and noted that
any civilized country would not want to see its children
treated in this way. Charge mentioned that the secretary
general of the Justice Ministry had been helpful in the past

BAMAKO 00000839 002 OF 002


on trafficking issues and would follow up with him on this
case, but needed the Minister's high level intervention. The
Minister indicated he would take the case seriously.

BARLERIN

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