|Mark pumping water at the Plan well in Mentao South refugee camp|
One afternoon, I met with the Tuareg refugee leaders. We sat down in a large tent after removing our shoes as is custom with the Tuareg. The Tuareg’s are herding people, for centuries, they have roamed the Sahel with their animals. Theirs is a culture steeped in centuries old traditions, chaffing at times against modern sensibilities and borders. We spoke about violence that drove them from their homes in northern Mali. They said the vast majority of Tuareg people would never accept the application of Sharia Law or the presence of foreign terrorist elements in their land. Peace would be achieved when the Tuareg people revolted against those who were introducing practices that were contrary to their traditions.
Culture and tradition are the lifeblood of a community. The leaders confided that conditions in the camp were hard. Families were worried about surviving. Even the food provided was a source of concern as fresh milk and meat are staples of their diet. I could hear their real worry and fear beneath their words, that traditions and culture would be the lingering casualty of this crisis. “We appreciate the clean water you brought us, and the schools, but can you help us get fresh milk? It’s our tradition for our children, for our future.”