Report: Push to Expel Dark-Skinned Malians From Kidal

Residents say that members of the light-skinned Taureg ethnic group are attempting to push out the city's darker inhabitants. 

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Malian girls play on Jan. 30, 2013, in the northern city of Gao, Mali (Getty Images)

Black residents of the northern-Malian city of Kidal say that rebels from the lighter-skinned Taureg ethnic group are attempting to expel dark-skinned residents, the Associated Press reports.

A spokesman for the rebel National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, which is accused of pushing for the expulsion, told the AP, "It's not a matter of black or white. It's a matter of our security," but a black resident of the town had a different story: "This morning, the people of the NMLA read a communique on the radio in Kidal informing us that all blacks that are not known as having been long-term residents of Kidal will be expelled in the direction of Mali, meaning towards Gao, to the south of Kidal," he said.

Mali has long been divided along racial and geographic lines between the country's more populated south, where the seat of government is located and which is primarily inhabited by darker-skinned ethnic groups, and its north, the traditional homeland of the lighter-skinned Tuareg people.

The Tuaregs have picked up arms against Mali's government multiple times since 1960 to demand greater rights. Last year after what they said was decades of neglect by the distant central government, the NMLA launched the latest rebellion and seized Mali's northern half. They now control the city of Kidal, which is predominantly Tuareg, though has a sizeable black population.

One black resident of Kidal said that she believed the threat of expulsion is linked to the recent reprisal killings of Tuaregs by Mali's army.

"The people that belong to the NMLA told us that they want us to leave their town because the Malian army is continuing to kill Tuareg civilians in Gossi, in the region of Timbuktu," said Aicha Maiga.

Read more at the Huffington Post.

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