The Amazigh Voice, December 1995 - March 1996
The Amazigh World Congress

BY HSEN LARBI


It was a milestone; one which will stand out in the chronology of the Amazigh movement. The Amazigh Pre-congress meeting in Saint-Rome de Dolan, France, early September 1995 was undoubtedly a historic event. For the first time after hundreds of years of domination, assimilation, and resignation, Imazighen, from every corner of the world, came together to talk about one of their most pressing problems: the stake of their culture and language. For some, this was and still is a question of the existence of the Amazigh entity, while for others it literally meant life or death (case of the Tuareg Imazighen).

The Amazigh Pre-congress took place on September 1, 2 and 3, 1995. The setting was a small mountain village in the South of France, Saint Rome de Dolan, in the Lozere province. To many of the participants the area almost resembled home: the stone houses, the mountain roads, and the hills. The unusual visitors of this charming village came from many parts of the world. They came from Africa (Morocco, Mali, The Canary Islands), Europe (France, Germany, Spain, Belgium Sweden, The United Kingdom) and America (United States and Gouadeloupe). Unfortunately, many representatives from Algeria were unable to come since they were denied visas. It is noted that the largest number of participants outside Tamazgha(1) came from France. The participants were mostly representing Amazigh cultural associations. These, through their most active members, were the ones who had initiated this World Congress. Despite the absence of experts in Amazigh culture who were invited to participate, many researchers, journalists, students and observers attended the congress.

Some Background

The idea of an Amazigh World Congress was born in the Summer of 1994, in Douarnenez (Brittany, France), when Imazighen from all over the world met unexpectedly during the International Festival of Cinema of Douarnenez, dedicated to the Amazigh people. Artists, researchers, and experts on the Amazigh world, human rights activists, as well as militants of the Amazigh movement gathered in a very serene and collaborative atmosphere and discussed the problems faced by the Amazigh culture. During these meetings the first steps for this historical meeting were taken. In October 1994 and officially on March 22nd, 1995, was created the CFPCMA (Committee in France for the Preparation of the Amazigh World Congress), which set the wheel in motion and organized the Amazigh pre-congress.

The pre-congress was organized as a stepping stone to the actual congress planned (since Douarnenez) for 1996. The framework, as defined by the early discussions in Douarnenez and as formulated by CFPCMA in the invitation sent to the participating associations, is:

  1. To examine the current status of the Amazigh issue in each country concerned.
  2. To examine the legal status of the Amazigh issue in the countries of origin in order to suggest solutions.
  3. To coordinate research efforts in order to introduce, spread, develop, and modernize the Amazigh language.
  4. To find the means necessary to achieve the previous objectives.
  5. To transform the framework of the congress into a permanent institution of resources for the protection of the Amazigh culture.

The Delegates at the Precongress

They totaled at least 75. A number of guests and observers attended the meeting as well. The delegates came respectively from:

Morocco:

Representing many associations most of which are members of the Conseil de Coordination des Associations Culturelles Amazighes (Coordination Council of the Amazigh Cultural Associations). Fourteen associations are members so far and represented at the congress were:

Canary Islands:

Two delegates and a guest. Among the delegates was Manuel Suarez Rosales, author of a modern Spanish-Tamazight dictionary published in 1989.

Libya:

One delegate residing in France represented Libya.

Niger and Mali

Represented by the association Temoust of Lyon, the Association Tribal Act, the president of ARVRA (the association of refugees and victims of the repression of the Azawad established in Mauritania) who is also a human rights activist, and finally the well-known poet Hawad. The countries of North Africa which were not represented are Burkina Faso, Egypt, Tunisia, and Algeria. The latter was allotted many delegates but none were able to come due to a lack of visas to enter France. Representation of Algeria was, therefore, temporarily delegated to Algerians living in France.

In the diaspora, many associations represented the North African Imazighen. Many countries in Europe were represented but, by far, France was dominating by the sheer number of Amazigh immigrants it always had. In all, twelve Amazigh associations in France were represented. These include: AJBF, AEBF, Tamazgha, MCBF, and Argane of Paris; Temoust of Lyon; MCB of Toulouse; ACB Saint-Etienne; ACB Amazigh of Nantes. From other European countries, there was Jugurtha of Brussels, Belgium; Tamazgha of Frankfurt, Germany; Colectivo of Grenada, Spain; Berberiska, Sweden. From North America, there was ACAA. A total of 36 delegations attended the pre-congress. It is possible that a few associations were omitted above.

As mentioned above, the CFPCMA invited many experts in Amazigh studies. No one came, and no explanations were given at the pre-congress as to the reasons for this lack of participation. Among the noted guests and observers were historian Jacques Simon of the University of Paris and Rosy Collar, an ACAA member and a teacher of traditional Amazigh weaving. Other guests and observers included two Amazigh immigrants in Gouadeloupe, a few members of the media, and some students.

The Meeting

Organized by the CFPCMA under the leadership of the untiring Mebrouk Ferkal, the President of the Cultural association Tamazgha of Paris (France), the meeting was a success despite the lack of time allotted to tackle the long agenda. Given the lack of precedents, the undertaking logistics were challenging both from the financial and the human resources points of view. In addition, despite the nature of the debates, the inadequate time allotted to presentations, and the unfamiliarity of the participants, Mr. Mouloud Lounaouci, who chaired the meeting, conducted the sessions terrifically. Last but not least is the notable financial support provided by Imazighen of France and a few Moroccan associations. In addition, many militants of the Amazigh Culture from Paris and the Lozere regions volunteered to help make the Amazigh Pre-congress the success it was.

The pre-congress was organized as follows:

Friday, September 1st: Delegates and guests welcome. Saturday morning was a plenary session, starting at 9 AM. After a short history of the CFPCMA, the background work involved and the difficulties encountered, the secretary of the CFPCMA, Mouloud Lounaouci, outlined the agenda suggested by the CFPCMA and left the floor to the treasurer of the CFPCMA to report on the financial status. Afterwards, Mouloud Lounaouci read the opening address. It was short but poignant. He pointed out the importance of such an event and put well into perspective the Amazigh struggle, emphasizing its non-violent character and tolerance but also its persevering march towards its goals. After reading several messages of support sent particularly from Algeria, the secretary left the floor to the delegates from different associations. Many people addressed the audience to either introduce their associations or inform of new developments in the Amazigh movement.

The Pre-congress proceeded with the election of a coordination committee. Next the agenda was discussed. This consisted of the different subjects of discussion and the setting up of the different commissions which will discuss them. Five commissions were set up:

  1. Language and culture: To discuss issues pertaining to the culture and the language, their revival and preservation.
  2. Socio-economic: To look at the economical aspects that necessarily have an impact on the development of the Amazigh culture.
  3. Internationalization of the Amazigh issue, finances: To discuss the internationalization of the Amazigh issues and to collect funds for the Amazigh Congress.
  4. History, evaluation and perspectives: To have a critical look at the Amazigh movements in their struggle to save their culture, and consider the perspectives ahead of the Amazigh struggle.
  5. Organizational: To discuss any organizational issues in terms of status of the Amazigh World Congress and other legal matters.
Delegates were asked to sign up in the different commissions and work started thereafter. ACAA's delegate sat in the commission History, Evaluation and Perspectives. The remainder of the day and the next day were devoted to work in commissions which was concluded by another plenary session during which each commission submitted a report.

The Recommendations of the Commissions

A full report of the meetings will be sent by the Congress' elected executive committee to all the member associations. The following are summaries of the recommendations made by the different commissions.

Language and culture

Some of the poles of reflection proposed by this commission suggested the consideration of the status of the Amazigh culture and language in the countries of Tamazgha, their evolution and prospects in the different contexts, ideology, religion and democracy. In particular, the pertinent issues which need to be addressed are:

Socio-economics

Emphasizing that the cultural marginalization of the Amazigh people is in a large part related to their socio-economical exclusion, the socio-economic commission made the following main recommendations:

Internationalization

This commission's recommendation centers around the creation of a committee which will work closely with the congress. This committee will have as goals:

History, evaluation and perspectives

The work of this commission centered around three major questions:

Organizational commission

This commission tackled the issue of the status to give to the Amazigh World Congress. After a very long debate it was decided that the Congress would be much more efficient in its work if it became a permanent institution, with a defined structure, bylaws and officers. While the structure remains the same, unless amended by the member associations, the executive branch will be elected each term to carry out the recommendations of the Congress. Having come to this conclusion, the participants in this commission, many of whom are versed in law, drafted the bylaws, which were voted by the assembly at the closing plenary session. The framework defined by this commission consisted of a Federal Council made of all the member associations representing every country and community. This council elected the Federal Bureau (32 members in which ACAA is represented). The Federal Bureau, then, elected the World Bureau (executive committee of 11 members), which in turn elected its officers (president and secretary).

This concluded the Amazigh pre-congress which lasted until the early morning hours on September, 4. During the closing plenary session, many members spoke in favor of hosting the first Amazigh World Congress. Among the countries suggested were: The Canary Islands, Belgium, Spain, France, and Morocco. No final date has been set for the coming congress yet. It will take place in 1996 or 1997, depending on how much progress would have been made by the elected bodies. The member associations are also expected to engage their individual efforts to support the congress. Because the coordination of efforts is of utmost importance, suggestions were made to all the member associations to work very closely with the elected World Bureau. Before the pre-congress was concluded, a communique for the press, a declaration, and a support motion for the Tuareg struggle were drafted. Translations of the declaration and the motion are included here.

Notes

1. Northern Africa including but not limited to Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, The Canary Islands, Niger, and Mali.
2. Party headed by Mehdjoubi Aherdan.


The Amazigh World Congress

47, Rue Benard, 75014, Paris, France Tel: 45 43 31 44, Fax: 45 43 35 25.


DECLARATION



Saint-Rome de Dolan, September 4, 1995.

We, Amazigh Pre-congress members, were gathered on September 2, 1995 at 9:00 AM. Our work was completed on September 4 1995 at 6:00 AM. This unique and historical event took place in a very friendly atmosphere, despite the debates which were, sometimes, rather animated, showing, in effect, how important the issues involved were to everyone.

With a strong will to reach our goals, with wisdom and perseverance, we worked without interruption in commissions around many poles of reflection:

A permanent structure, the A.W.C. (The Amazigh World Congress), has come to life because of our will to act together, independently from states and political parties.

The commissions' reports will be used as the basis and framework for the discussions which will take place at the next congress.

The Amazigh World Congress has given itself a structure with a Federal Council of 32 members and a World Bureau of 11 members. Besides the Canary Islands, Spain, Belgium, France, and Morocco were suggested as the place for the meeting of the AWC.

The pre-congress attendees, made of 36 delegations (Morocco, Libya, Mauritania, Algeria, Niger, Mali, Sweden, Great Britain, Belgium, Germany, France, Spain, and USA) are proud of the success achieved at this pre-congress.




The Amazigh World Congress

47, Rue Benard, 75014, Paris, France Tel: 45 43 31 44, Fax: 45 43 35 25.


MOTION OF SUPPORT TO THE TUAREG PEOPLE



Saint-Rome de Dolan, September 4, 1995.

The Amazigh World Congress The Amazigh World Congress is open to suggestions and all initiatives which will bring peace and justice to this region.