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.
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:
- To examine the current status of the Amazigh issue in each country
- To examine the legal status of the Amazigh issue in the countries of
origin in order to suggest solutions.
- To coordinate research efforts in order to introduce, spread, develop,
and modernize the Amazigh language.
- To find the means necessary to achieve the previous objectives.
- 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:
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:
- AMREC of Casablanca, Marakech and Rabat;
- ANCAP of Rabat and Agadir;
- Association of the Summer University of Agadir;
- Fazaz Association, Fez;
- Tilelli of Goulmima; and
- Tifinagh of Rabat.
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
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
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:
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.
- Language and culture: To discuss issues pertaining to the culture and the
language, their revival and preservation.
- Socio-economic: To look at the economical aspects that necessarily have
an impact on the development of the Amazigh culture.
- Internationalization of the Amazigh issue, finances: To discuss the
internationalization of the Amazigh issues and to collect funds for the
- 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.
- Organizational: To discuss any organizational issues in terms of status
of the Amazigh World Congress and other legal matters.
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:
- Status of all issues regarding Tamazight in the different regions.
- Question of officialization.
- Issues of language planning and standardization.
- Teaching and educational tools.
- Socio-economic functions of Tamazight.
- Cultural production and development. Means of safeguarding the cultural
- Amazigh culture, traditions and modernity.
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:
- Safeguarding the intellectual wealth: Protection of intellectual property
including the traditional know-how, copyrights, and archeological heritage.
- Protection of the environment.
- Approval and application of the UN's Universal Declaration for the rights
of indigenous people.
- Respect of the agricultural customary laws (e.g. laws regulating water
distribution), as well as the treaties, pacts and accords passed between
the people and the governments especially concerning real estate.
- Revision of investment laws while incorporating decentralization.
- Profiting of Imazighen from the natural resources of the lands in which
they live and re-adaptation of the cooperative system in order to help
- Creation of cultural, scientific, economic databases. Creation of
publishing and communication companies.
- Exchanges of know-how between the people of Tamazgha and Imazighen in the
diaspora. Creation of partnerships.
- Creation of study groups to investigate the economics of potential
- Establishment of international relations with the help of the Amazigh
This commission's recommendation centers around the creation of a committee
which will work closely with the congress. This committee will have as
- Informing the public worldwide, policy makers, and all prospective sponsors
of the Amazigh reality.
- Bringing the Amazigh issues to the international scene, and using all the
available international legal means to guarantee the Amazigh people its
- Identifying and helping to secure the necessary financial resources.
The coordinator of this committee, to be referred to as the "External
Relations and Finances Committee", will work closely with the congress to
insure proper coordination.
History, evaluation and perspectives
The work of this commission centered around three major questions:
- Who are Imazighen?
Is there a loss of identity? There is a devaluation of the Amazigh culture
for which Imazighen are responsible and one that is due to a falsification
of Amazigh history. Therefore, it is important for Imazighen to repossess
their history and this must be done scientifically. This translates into
Imazighen's writing their own history and, thus, repossessing the necessary
elements of their personality which, in the past, have been occulted.
- Where have Imazighen made it up to?
It is most important to realize that, nowadays, the Amazigh people are not
recognized as such in any of the countries they originate from. One can,
however, evaluate the length of the road traveled by the Amazigh movement.
In Algeria, the protest is led by the MCB whose latest action was the
school boycott resulting in the government's decision to introduce
Tamazight in schools. In addition, the Amazigh question is addressed by
many political parties in their platforms. In Morocco, the MNP(2) (The People's
National Movement) incorporated the Amazigh issue, while the MCA (The Amazigh
Cultural Movement) has seen a notable development which led to the 1991 Agadir
Charter for Tamazight signed by 14 associations. In the Canary Islands, there
exists a dynamic of repossession of the Amazigh culture and language. In Tuareg
country, in contrast, Imazighen are struggling to stay alive. Finally, abroad,
an association network has developed in order to promote the Amazigh culture.
- What do Imazighen want?
The Amazigh nation to recover its identity. This must be consecrated in
the official documents of the countries of Tamazgha.
Imazighen must write their own history. A task force must be set up for
With the help of the Amazigh World Congress, lobbies must be
encouraged/set up in order to favor the development of the Amazigh culture.
The Amazigh congress will also make all necessary efforts to protect the
achievements and interests of Imazighen.
Coordination of the efforts engaged by all the parties concerned is of
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.
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.
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
- language and culture
- history, evaluation and perspectives
- finances and international relations
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
- Considering the more than dramatic situation prevalent in Niger and Mali,
- Considering the marginalization and the oppression of which this people
is victim since the creation of these two countries in 1960,
- Considering, for the last five years, the lack of notable progress in a
direction that would favor the respect of human rights in Tuareg country,
and the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of the different massacres,
- Considering that, during the last five years, these massacres have led to
several thousands of victims among the Tuareg civilian population,
- Considering the silence of the international community on this problem,
- Considering the large parts played by France and Algeria in dealing with
- Considering the right (granted by international laws) of every people to
decide its own fate,
- Considering that the fight of the Tuareg people is an integral part of
the Amazigh people's fight for its dignity and its inalienable right to
live in freedom and equality in a land undeniably theirs,
- Considering the flagrant violation by the governments of Niger and Mali
of the treaties and accords signed during the last years with the Tuareg
The Amazigh World Congress is open to suggestions and all initiatives which
will bring peace and justice to this region.
- Affirms its engagement to make of the Tuareg people's fight its own,
until its rights are effectively recognized,
- Condemns the massive massacres perpetrated against the Tuareg civilians
in Mali and Niger,
- Appeals solemnly to the United Nations and the Organization for African
Unity to break their silence on the Tuareg issue, from both a legal and a
political point of view,
- Urges the European Union de continue its efforts in order to find a just
and durable solution to the conflict,
- Calls for the massacres to cease immediately, and for the creation of an
international tribunal to try the persons responsible for this genocide.