Although 90 percent Muslim, Mali is a racially diverse country consisting of ethnic Manday, Songhai, Tuareg, Fulani and descendants of Arabs.
The Bambara are ethnically black African and make up nearly half the population, dominating the army ranks. Ten percent of Malians are Tuareg, living mainly in the north.
A Tuareg rebellion last year led to a military coup, sparking the latest conflict. Thousands of Tuareg refugees have escaped into neighbouring countries and fear the Bambara will take revenge on them.
Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow reports on the Tuaregs in camps in Mauritania.