Today was a very memorable day for Malians. No it was not a 4-day celebration of the coup. Today, we celebrated Martyrs Day. As the world watched the events emerging since the coup, many embassies and consulates warned their citizens to stay away from the march that was to commemorate this day which is also popularly known as Democracy Day.
A little history about this day. On March 26th, 1991, 300 demonstrators were killed in clashes with the military, as they protested against then leader Moussa Traoré. The protest was organized against Traoré’s Multiparisme political system set up on October 1989 and increasing amount of unemployment and pay cuts from the government including the rampant privatization of government properties created great dissatisfaction. In an attempt to control the crowd and stall the mounting protest and crack down its organizers, Traoré launched a violent military attack against the protesters ending into a horrific death of more or less 300 people. Because of this, members of concerned military officers, headed by ATT himself, launched a military coup against Traoré thereby ending his more than 23 years of political rule in Mali.
To be honest, I find it most ironic that the coup happened less than a week before the so-called Democracy Day, ending the very democracy that so many sacrificed their lives for. Many parties and individuals sharing this very sentiment joined a peaceful march to speak out against the coup. The march was held at Bourse de Travail ( Labor Union Building) and there were chants for Sanogo to step down and for ATT to be restored back to power. In addition, there were shouts for the ORTM building to be liberated. The military has kept control of the TV station since the coup started on Wednesday. Soldiers maintained their presence to keep protesters at bay and ensure that no one got violent. I am just glad this march did not go wrong. It was also nice to see that democracy was not completely lost as people voiced their displeasure with Sanogo taking over the democratic process a month before Malians were set to go to the polls. Sanogo, on National TV, spoke to honor the souls that had been lost in this historic battle and reaffirm to the Malian people that power would be returned to the people. Sad and ironic how Mali has stepped back in time. May those 300 lives not have been lost in vain, may democracy rein free and fair again, for despite its weaknesses, the will of the people needs to mold the future of our country.
The day passed peacefully with no reports of any negative backlash or violence. Tomorrow will mark the first day of official work since the coup broke out. Sanogo has asked all government officials to return to work. The day after the coup, these were some of the first people that were given instructions. It will be interesting to see what new developments unfold. Sanogo is starting to look more and more like a President and less like just another military officer on TV. Another good sign that life is returning back to normal is that airports will open tomorrow. My interns leave us on March 29th, a month ahead of their planned departure. I am definitely sad to see them go. They have been a true asset to our campaign. How many students would be willing to pay their own way to come intern in a foreign country for a foreign campaign when they could be in the US doing the same thing in this election year? Not many and there are not many that could have worked the 14 hour days we sometimes threw at them. Liz Jessop and Kyle Rehn, you will be missed but we are glad your parents will have you back home, safe and sound.
Yeah has been working hard as well. He left this morning at 9am and has been having political meetings since then to try to see if a unified front can be created to convince the new President to restore democracy. It is becoming harder and harder to do so, as politicians attempt to gain favor with the new President in hopes that they may get a position in government. It is disheartening to see that these are the same leaders that if they had run on April 29th and won, they would be running our whole country. Sanogo, came on ORTM tonight, promising to work with political parties within the next few weeks to create a unified government. The question becomes with a unified government, it’s like having a dual Presidential system with Democrats and Republicans. No bill would ever get passed and no law ever instituted.
The time has come when politicians in Mali need to get off their personal agendas and start pushing out one agenda alone and that is the welfare of Mali.