Commune and town
|• Total||2,185 km2 (844 sq mi)|
|• Density||9.5/km2 (25/sq mi)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC0|
Ménaka is a rural commune and town in Menaka Cercle, Gao Region, in the far east of Mali. It is the local government seat and largest town in the Cercle, and one of four rural communes. Ménaka is in the midst of the Saharan desert, along wadi Ezgeuret, and ancient dry river valley of the Iullemmeden Basin.
Ménaka Cercle is a rural, isolated, and largely desert area, crisscrossed by seasonal wadis, part of the Azaouad region. The area includes the rocky outcrops of the Ader Douchi hills, in the midst of which Ménaka town sits. Its highest point, Mount Abourak, lies across dunes around 150 km to the north.
Most of the small population are nomadic Tuareg tribal populations, as well as nomadic minorities, including the Wodaabe Fula and sedentary Songhai people. The area is a traditional center of the Kel Dinnik Tuareg confederation — as well as the smaller Iwellemeden Kel Kummer, with the town of Andéramboukane, near the Nigerien border, being one historic center for their transhumance communities. Andéramboukane is 100 km south on the main road, which runs through Ménaka, west 210 km to Ansongo on the Niger River, and a further 95 km north to the regional capitol of Gao. The town is served by Menaka Airport.
The Menaka area was a center of Ag El Insar Firhoun's Malian rising of larger 1916 Tuareg Rebellion, and was a government garrison town in the 1961–1964, 1990–1995, and the 2007–present Tuareg Rebellions. Most recently, Menaka was put under siege and the military post sacked by former rebels who had been integrated into the Malian Army in a short term rising in May–July 2006. The current May 23, 2006 Democratic Alliance for Change rebel group dates from this siege.
On 25 November, a Frenchman called Pierre Camatte was taken hostage from a hotel in Ménaka city. A January 2010 statement issued by the north African branch of al-Qaeda, sets an ultimatum of 20 days for the exchange of four of al-Qaeda members by Pierre Camatte, after which, it says, the French and Malian governments "will be fully responsible for the French hostage's life".
Malian and international Human Rights organisations pointed to Menaka in 2008, as one of several towns in the Gao Region in which informal slavery relations persist between noble caste Tuareg pastoralists and thousands of sedentary low caste Bellah Tuareg.
- Plan de Sécurite Alimentaire Commune de Ménaka 2005-2009 (PDF) (in French), Commissariat à la Sécurité Alimentaire, République du Mali, USAID-Mali, 2005CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link).
- Resultats Provisoires RGPH 2009 (Région de Gao) (PDF) (in French), République de Mali: Institut National de la StatistiqueCS1 maint: unrecognized language (link).
- Imperato, Pascal James (1986). Historical Dictionary of Mali. Metuchen NJ - London: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0810813696.:100-200, 235
- MALI: Armed men seize three military bases in remote north. 23 May 2006 (IRIN).
- Frenchman Pierre Camatte kidnapped in Mali. 11 January 2010. BBC News.
- Mali: Thousands Still Live in Slavery in North. IRIN (United Nations). 14 July 2008.