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Analyzing Mali’s Refugee Crisis

The one thing that is on my mind these days is the current growing Malian refugee situation. It is hard to watch your fellow man suffer. However, it is harder still when you know they had little to begin with and now everything, including their dignity, is being stripped from them. These people did nothing to deserve the conditions they have been subjected to.

On June 10th, Yeah was a man on a mission. His mission was to truly investigate the conditions of the camp and the state of the refugees living in them, so that he could get the international community and the Malian government more involved.

The camp at Soum

Yeah went to visit the Malian refugees in Burkina Faso. UNHCR (High Commission for Refugees UN), reports 180,060 refugees displaced all over Mali, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger. 65009 refugees are in Burkina Faso as of June 9th 2012. Of these numbers, almost 60% are children. About 38% are aged 18-59 and about 3% are 60 and older. The situation in these camps is getting more and more desperate. The flow of aid is unable to match the need. Yeah went with Malian journalist Yaya Samaké (not a relative) to document the situation and hear firsthand what the refugees and officials concerned with the crisis were saying.

Yeah met with the officials at the Mali Embassy in Burkina Faso. Mali Ambassador to Burkina, Seydou Traoré, admitted that they had not been to visit the Malian refugees situated in Burkina Faso. They told Yeah that the Malian government had not given any aid to be delivered to the refugees. This seems amazing to me that one’s own government does not care two cents as to the plight of their own people. Yeah was the first Malian from Mali to have visited the refugees in Burkina. What is the use of an embassy in Burkina Faso if it does not even serve its people?

Yeah also had the opportunity to meet with the country’s head of UNHCR, Fata Courouma, to better understand the needs of the camp. Yeah visited the Mentao, Damba and Djibo camps which is in the Soum province, 250 km from Burkina’s capital of Ouagadougou.  This area (as of May 18th 2012) according the UNHCR houses 14,506 individuals and 2,472 households.

With the UNHCR/CR-BKF representatives

The refugees in these areas hail mainly from the Tombouctou area.  Also among the refugees there are people who have served in the armed forces of Mali. Conditions are getting worse because of the rainy season coming in. The tents available are inadequate to deal with the rainy season. The number one need right now is protection from the elements. Even though food is being served, the rations do not meet the nutritional requirement and are lower than what a person would eat on a daily basis. Children that are displaced are not receiving an education. There are limited health services provided by the UNHCR and the CR-BKF. There are no words to describe the situation in these camps. It is unbelievable that it has come to this and that nothing is being done to help these individuals.

These individuals were so happy that a fellow Malian had finally come to hear what was happening to them in these camps. They expressed their gratitude to the Burkina officials and were frustrated with the Malian government because no one had come to help them. To them, it seemed like they had been forgotten by their own government. Yeah said to them, “I am not come to you on behalf of the Malian government. I came to see you as a brother wounded at the situation as you live. Your suffering is our suffering. Your expectations are not met, not because the government does not have the will, but because the country is almost stopped. Let us all pray for the speedy return of peace, so you can find your homeland. We will always be by your side”.  Yeah promised the camp leaders that he would do more to help them and raise awareness to the growing humanitarian situation.

Aghali Ag Hamidou, the teacher that returned to help

Yeah met one camp representative by the name of Aghali Ag Hamidou , who is from the Tombouctou region and was teaching in Bamako when the fighting broke. He left his job in Bamako and returned to Burkina Faso to help his tribe in the refugee camp. Another camp leader Almahil Ag Almouwak of the South camp said “I prefer the Malian tree to another tree”. Despite the harsh conditions the refugees are under, he was quick to say that Mali will always be their home. They want to return home. He cautioned that not all Tuaregs are rebels and vice versa and cautioned the government to stop treating them as such.

Our Malian brothers and sisters still hold on to the hope that Mali will be reunited and that they will then be able to return home and live in peace.  Speaking through Yeah, they call on the Malian authorities to step up to the plate and help them.

I am glad that Yeah took the opportunity to go see what the refugees have to deal with on a daily basis. The conditions are desperate and are worsening. Now I ask you, imagine not having enough to eat. Imagine being unable to sleep because your tent let water through or because you were simply too hungry. Imagine not knowing what to do with yourself all day, because there simply is nothing to do. Imagine being unable to take care of your family.  Imagine a life where death seems preferable to suffering. Conditions are terrible for the Malian refugees and they are about to get worse as we approach the rainy seasons from July to September.

Donate today to organizations like UNHCR that are on the ground and trying to make a dent in the growing numbers with Operation Mali. Or donate to Samake2012 and specify refugee in the comments field and the funds will go towards the collection Yeah is making for the refugees.

Every little bit helps. Will you help today?

Read Yaya Samake’s article here: FRENCH   TRANSLATED IN ENGLISH

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Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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A slow return to calm

For the last 24 hours, Bamako has experienced the first feeling of true calmness since the coup happened. We have been able to restock on all items imaginable and I have no doubt the Malian economy has benefited from my nervousness. In addition, while there have been reports that the water and electricity will be cut off, my area of Faladie has seen no cuts in either. Many people are expecting the craziness of the 1991 coup, but none of it has materialized. Citizens remain unharmed and for the most part go about handling their daily business till 6pm when curfew starts. The only thing that materializes the feeling of captivity for me is that the airport and borders remain shut down. There are rumors that they will reopen on Wednesday. As long as they remain shut no one can get out. But also no one and nothing can get it in. This means fuel and food are not being replenished. Already fuel has risen to 2000cfa per litre compared to 500cfa a week ago. This I believe will be the true test of this leadership. They need to start showing some good faith by reopening the borders and airports.

Also the leaders of MNLA in the North are reporting they will advance and capture more towns, taking advantage of the governments weakness at this time. I worry for the additional people that will be displaced by this fighting. Already we have 175000 refugees living in despicable conditions. People in the world need to realize that the refugee issue is not just a Mali issue; it is a human rights issue. We have refugees that are living in despicable conditions with little to no resources. Yeah and his team have been attempting to raise refugee aid to help his displaced Malian brothers and sisters while the issue in the North plays out. We are calling on the international community to step up aid to these displaced people so that basic necessities like food, water and shelter are given them so that we don’t have a similar issue like that in Sudan and Somalia.

Despite reports yesterday afternoon that loyalists/Red Berets would try to reclaim the TV station ORTM and the palace, the night remained relatively calm. The Red Berets are Mali’s version of the Secret Service that Obama has. Their duty is to protect their president at all times and with their life. At one point there were reports that the loyalists had won and Sanogo injured. At 9:30pm, after announcements from the spokesperson, the leader of the coup, Sanogo, came on TV and advised that he was safe. He advised that the rumors were unfounded. As he spoke, the camera spun around showing the faces of none other than the members of the Red Beret. The Red Beret spokesperson then spoke and advised that they would rally their support around the coup leaders. There is no saying how valid this is or whether these individuals are the actual Red Beret that protect the president. I guess the next few days will tell a better story.

One of the biggest concerns that happened after the coup was the capture of several leaders and also the looting of the government buildings. Several leaders were taken and detained less because of their loyalty to the former president Amadou Toumani Toure(ATT) and more because they themselves have been involved in embezzlement of funds and ineffective governance. Since the coup started, many houses of these leaders and stores were looted. Sanogo came on TV last night condemning the looting. He severely cautioned his own people who this took away from the good they meant to bring the country. He also told the Malian people who several civilians, seeing the opportunity, had dressed in military uniform and was responsible for “some” of the looting. They then showed a video of all the things taken by the military from the government offices and advised that they would all be returned. In addition, Sanogo stated that the leaders detained would not be physically harmed and that they would receive a fair trial that would be untouched by these politicians money and connections when the government re-established itself.

Yeah, has been working feverishly to get in touch with other political leaders so that a united front can be created that will stand up for democracy. It is amazing how many leaders are unwilling to stand up for something they claimed was important. How can anyone support the loss of democracy that takes away the voice of the people. How does a true leader support the actions that have caused fear in the hearts of the people they were campaigning to protect. There are so many leaders that have just jumped ship in an attempt to gain favor with the new military leaders. Yeah has condemned the coup and continues to condemn it. However he remains firm in his belief that we are now in this situation and the best way to get back to democracy is to open peaceful dialogue with the military leaders of the coup. He shares the conviction of the Malian people who the ex-president ATT had not done all he could have to prevent the issues in the North. Yeah continues to hope that political leaders will show true leadership and defend their country by banding together to convince the military coup leaders to create a government that is filled with politicians and not military personnel.

March 27th will spell an important day for Malians, as the military establish their temporary government.It will be essential to see the constitution re-established and a new date set for the elections. There is the concern I have that some of the leaders like Modibo Sidibe and Jeamille that have been jailed were presidential candidates and some that escaped to other countries like Soumaila Cisse and Diacounda will not be able to compete. This will create tensions in loyalists of these parties and any results will be heavily disputed. It will be important for this military government to make sure they address the reasons why these individuals are being detained and try them sooner rather than later by a just judicial system.

This is without doubt a time of uncertainty. However, we must now make the best use of the situation that has happened. Nothing works with anger and no one is going to do anything just because the US or EU said so. Now more than ever it is essential to open the dialogue. Dialogue does not mean mindless following. However, it does allow for leaders to discuss how best to bring together their different opinions in the hope of furthering the future and success of their beloved country.

Here’s hoping and praying that democracy will prevail and that Mali may be able to bounce back from this coup and the ill-effects it has already caused to its economy and its people.

Vive la démocratie ! ( Long Live Democracy)
Vive le Mali ! ( Long Live Mali)
Divisés nous perdons tous ! Unis nous gagnons tous! (Divided we all lose! United we all win!)

 
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Posted by on March 24, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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