This past week has been a huge political muddle. May 22nd was to spell the last day of office for interim President Dioncounda Traoré. A deal brokered by the African nation’s body ECOWAS sought to extend his term for 12 months. Now Dioncounda would have limited powers and the main running of the country would fall in the hands of the Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra.
On Monday, protesters unhappy with the forced decision to keep Dioncounda marched on Mali’s palace. There in the heat of the moment, the 70-year old Dioncounda was injured and admitted to the Mali hospital with head injuries. Now people are saying the junta that was supposed to be protecting the President let these protestors in. On the other side, we have also heard that there was a scheduled meeting between Dioncounda and 10 individuals that represented opposing factions. When these 10 individuals came to meet the President and were waved in by the guards, the protesters pushed past as well. Either story while the second may remove the junta’s involvement are hard to corroborate and point to the finer meaning that not even the highest office in the country is safe from protest.
As Bamako watched the news of this attack spread, we were in disbelief. While I am a big believer in democratic process and making your opinion heard, I am also of the belief that human beings need to act like human beings and not animals. In addition, in a society that reveres its elderly, for a 70-year old individual to be assaulted by youth is something that Malians do not take kindly to. That next morning, in secrecy Dioncounda was flown to Paris to be admitted for further testing. That evening, there was another protest held which claimed that Sanogo would be the new President. This protest was only attended by a few 1000 compared to the tens of thousands the previous day. This could mean one of two things. One, many people were shocked that the events of the previous day got so out of hand and also many people felt that Sanogo betrayed them when he took a deal with ECOWAS that bestowed him with an ex-President’s privileges. Sanogo, for his part, other than condemning the violence of the protests, has remained quiet. He as brokered a pretty sweet deal for himself. He would get paid $10000/month (5 million cfa), a house, two cars and a security detail. So the gift he is getting for bringing so much insecurity is very big. In a country so poor, one can only imagine how anyone can get so much money when the average Malian makes less than a $1 a day. The question that also is high on every ones minds is that Sanogo has benefitted but what about the 500+ odd men under the junta. If they feel that Sanogo has betrayed them, then things could get ugly.
This past week Yeah met with the Prime Minister to discuss the ongoing situation. The Prime Minister has condemned the actions of the mob and called on people to be calm using the Bambara word “Sabali” which means “patience” several times in an address to the nation. Yeah also had an opportunity to talk with CNN’s Suzanne Malveaux on the issues in Mali. Take a listen at CNN below. You can also find this on http://samake2012.com/updates/
The North continues to remain in the hands of rebels and the ties that these groups are building are very dangerous to Mali’s stability. Mali’s AZAWAD last week even installed their own President over the North. There has been talk of Mali letting these three regions go. If that happened, I think the outcry in Mali would be huge. These territories not only house the Tuaregs that want their independence but also many other ethnic groups, of which the Tuaregs are a minority. By allowing an independent state to emerge, Mali would be allowing a territory in which groups similar to the Taliban will emerge. In essence Al-Qaeda would be able to get a new playground to harvest various training camps and illegal activities. The entire world will pay the price if the North becomes another Al-Qaeda festering pot. In all this, Malians will pay the heaviest price. With Sharia law already established in Tombouctou, Malians are already being suppressed. Malians in the South need to focus their attentions on the Northern regions. Aid is not the only thing the North needs. It needs freedom from groups attempting to take away civil liberties. If the world wants to get involved it needs to be putting pressure on these groups to pull out. Yeah spoke with CNN’s Erin Burnett about the Northern issue in Mali.
In this entire ruckus, the one thing that remains as forgotten today as it was two months ago is the growing refugee situation. The situation is worse today as the numbers continue to climb. People are living in despicable conditions and while the aid is coming in more now than before, it cannot meet the growing demand. It amazes me that when the earthquake happened in Haiti, the American celebrities put on a great fundraiser and raised a lot of money to benefit Haiti. Probably because Haiti was closer to home. However, the refugee situation has not gained the support of celebrities despite Angelina Jolie being called as a special envoy for the UN High Commission for Refugees. The need is great, the supply is small. Next week, Yeah plans to go to Mopti where some of the refugees are and then later to Burkina Faso. The hope is to assess the growing need and then provide the refugees with some much needed food.
The one thing that never fails to amaze me is the tenacious strength of the Malian people. Through all this, they continue to build their lives, taking in stride the changing forces. As noted before, their faith in their politicians is very low and their belief is as long as the politicians don’t make their lives worse, life will go on. Here it is hard for people to look to the future when their present is so filled with turmoil and hardship. But the Malian people will prevail like they have before. They deserve a much needed break. They definitely deserve better leaders who will give their needs a priority. Mali’s mess cannot be solved by self-serving politicians. It needs honest leadership!