The MNLA, Social Media, and the Malian Civil War
Chapter 3: The MNLA on Facebook: Social Media Outreach by the Numbers
We, the MNLA, are one of the movements that has best utilized social networks … to lend visibility to [our] political project.
—Mossa Ag Attaher, MNLA Chargé for Communication1
FROM ITS INCEPTION in late 2011, the MNLA was determined to make use of new electronic means of communicating with the world. The MNLA leadership understood that a primary reason behind the failure of previous Tuareg rebellions, starting with the first uprising in 1963, was a lack of public outreach and mobilization, and they were determined that their movement would be different.2 Unlike in 1963, when the only reliable and accessible means of communication in northern Mali was person-to-person, by 2011, cellular and satellite phones were common, if not universal, in northern Mali, and the Internet offered unprecedented platforms for outreach and mobilization.3 Accordingly, the MNLA’s leadership began formulating plans for media outreach well before the onset of the armed rebellion in January 2012. In 2011, almost immediately after its founding, the group created an official website (www.mnlamov.net) and press service (Toumast Press). Access to Toumast Press was quickly censored in Mali.4 In addition, the MNLA sought to grow its presence in European media. Many of its spokesmen, including Mossa Ag Attaher, Moussa Ag Assarid, and Hama Ag Sid’Ahmed, were already based in Europe and were relatively well known, especially but not exclusively within ←53 | 54→the Tuareg diaspora community.5 They subsequently got many interviews aired on French and other European media outlets. From northern Mali/Azawad, designated, official...
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