You know, I think one of the things that’s gotten lost in a lot of the talk about al-Qaeda and mujahideen and all of that is that—is the way that this conflict started. This conflict started with a movement of secular Tuareg separatists who rose up and demanded an independent state and who started to sweep down into the northern two-thirds of Mali to take over the area which they consider theirs. And they were shadowed in this operation by some other Tuaregs that had different views, more religious views, as well as al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and some other actors. And, you know, together, sort of in an alliance not of the willing, they took over the area. And then, from that point on, the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the mujahideen, the local mujahideen who are allied with them, sort of took over the cities of northern Mali from the Tuareg separatists. So, I think, you know, the genesis of this whole conflict is the Tuareg people of northern Mali demanding a state, which is a very old demand, which goes back to 1963, of the first Tuareg rebellion.
And I think it also needs to be mentioned that France has very important economic interests, not necessarily in Mali, but in neighboring northern Niger, which is also a Tuareg area. And this whole area of northern Mali and northern Niger is a uranium-rich area, which is a Tuareg area, and which shares the same tribes going back and forth between the two, some of the same tribes, some of the same families even. And usually when you have a Tuareg rebellion or uprising in Mali, it spreads to Niger, and when you have one in Niger, it spreads to Mali, because they’re really all one people. And the Tuaregs, in general, have a kind of a national sense. I would compare them with the Kurds. They’re—they consider themselves one people, whether they’re in the Sahara of Algeria or the Sahara of Libya or the Sahara of Mali or the Sahara of Niger. For them, it’s just their homeland.
And so, you know, France has a huge economic interest in northern Niger. That is—northern Niger, Niger, is one of the world’s biggest reserves of uranium. France is—gets 75 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. And as we know, France is a major exporter of nuclear power, and it’s a major component of French’s—the France’s military-industrial entity. I mean, uranium, you know, the uranium from Niger, which is France’s former colony, really was a key for France in its own development. I mean, they developed their nuclear industry on the back of that very cheap uranium coming from northern Niger, which, by the way, Niger is one of the bottom three poorest countries in the world, according to the U.N. Human Rights—U.N. Human Development Index. I mean, it has one of the world’s most important resources, and yet it’s one of the poorest. Northern Mali also has a large amount of uranium, and the whole area has been divided up into exploration concessions, and there are a number of companies that are just waiting for the chance to get in there. And also gold and oil.