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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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The “forgotten”

As the rain came down in buckets, it brought to end the heat wave of 120F that has hit Mali and all Malians very hard. April is the hottest month usually in Mali and this year, the heat took no breaks. I am blessed that during the hot months, I and my kids can retreat to our air-conditioned house. However, it only served to stress how most Malians cannot afford this basic necessity. To be honest, most part of the country remains without electricity and so even fans remain inaccessible.

Seeing the rain come down, made me think of the wonderful relief it would bring to the general Malian population. But then the thought hit me. What about all those 235,000 people who are now living in the North without any shelter or food?

As the world focuses its attentions on the “political” crisis in Mali, more and more, the humanitarian issues in the North continue to remain on the back burner. We could be going through the worse humanitarian crisis and it might be too late before anyone takes notice.

Refugee # as of April 5th

The refugee crisis began in January when Tuareg rebels started a fight for the liberation of the North. The ensuing drought only made matters worse as the nomadic northerners started traveling in search of food and other resources. When the coup hit in March, the crisis deepened and people found themselves fleeing to escape harsh conditions being imposed by the rebels in Gao, Kidal and Tombouctou. In a matter of days, 1500 people were fleeing a day versus the 200 fleeing before the crisis broke. The conditions are best described by the Doctors without Borders based at a camp in Mauritania that has been receiving some of the fleeing refugees. “As the number of refugees increases, so does the pressure for humanitarian response to improve the living conditions within the camp. There are currently 100 communal latrines for 57,000 refugees and just nine liters of water per person, per day. The conditions are below humanitarian standards, which call for 20 liters of water per person per day, and one latrine per 20 people”.

I cannot say this enough. We need to bring in some much needed relief for all Malians that are suffering in the North. Mali, being one of the poorest countries in the world, has been served another plate of misery. The conditions at these camps are deplorable and aid workers are doing the best that they can do. No child deserves to go hungry. No child deserves not to be able to go to school. No mother deserves to watch her child die or not be able to provide them with the basic necessities. No mother deserves to lose a baby because of lack of medical treatment. No family deserves to be separated.

The effects of war are damaging. However, let’s help turn some media attention on Mali’s forgotten people. Contact the media; ask them to cover this crisis. Facebook and tweet about this. Saving a human life is newsworthy! Contact your friends and family. Ask them if they can donate. $1 a day feeds 1 child for a day. If anything we can start by saving 1 child a day. If we band together we can help provide the much needed help for our people in the North.

We are collecting funds right now for the refugee crisis. If you can help please make an online donation at www.samake2012.com (Put Refugee in the comment field) or at a trust set up: Friends of Mali Trust, 472 East 4380 North, Provo, Utah 84604 (Please note the trust is not tax-deductible).

If you can help today, help make a difference. Every little bit helps. Please, please, let’s do what we can. My friend told me that I can’t save the world but I can add my 2 cents in and maybe others would follow. Well friends, I am putting in $100 towards the crisis. Will you join in and create a domino effect? Are you in? Together, lets help contribute to aid for Northern Malians.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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ADPS: A solution from within

Mali as it stands today, finds itself slapped with sanctions, its refugee crisis worsening and with the North declaring their independence. I have always maintained that sanctions do not affect governments but individuals. It would take a lot of individual suffering to get Malians on the street protesting against the junta that believe they have just saved Mali from a bigger evil. So why were sanctions issued? Ecowas, pressured by the international community, felt the need to apply sanctions so that the junta would return the country to democracy and the former constitution.

Democracy is one thing, but the former constitution might be a tall order for a number of reasons. Particularly Article 36 of the former constitution.

Article 36 states: When the President of the Republic is temporarily unable to fulfill his duties, his powers shall be provisionally exercised by the Prime Minister.

In case of a vacancy of the Presidency of Republic for some unforeseen, disruptive cause that is an absolute or unavoidable obstacle, noted by the Constitutional Court, and the President of the National Assembly and the Prime Minister, the functions of the President of the Republic shall be carried out by the President of the National Assembly.

A new process for election of a new president for a new period of five years shall then commence. The election of the new President shall take place between twenty-one and forty days after the official recognition of the vacancy or preventative obstacle.

Diacounda Traoré, leader of Adema-PASJ and a Presidential candidate himself, was the President of the National Assembly, before the junta abandoned the constitution. He was also one of the individuals sought to be arrested by the junta. The junta has been wildly popular for the very reason that Malians believe that ATT and top politicians did nothing to serve the common Malian. By putting back the very individuals that have caused harm (in the people’s eyes) would serve little purpose. In addition, Diacounda’s term expires in July. With three electoral regions fallen, it will be impossible for him to hold elections within the 40 days. First the territorial integrity of Mali needs to be restored. Then, Mali can start to plan elections so the people’s voice can be heard.

Yeah and his team, consisting of 10 other political parties and 3 other presidential candidates have formed the Alliance of Democrats for the Patriots out of the crisis (ADPS) or (l’Alliance des Démocrates Patriotes pour la Sortie de crise (ADPS) in French).

ADPS has been working hard to find a solution that is the most compatible with the previous Constitution.

Yeah has been in consistent meetings for the last two weeks trying to come up with a plan politically that can save Mali from further sanctions and loss of territorial integrity. ADPS stance is that there is no way to restore the constitutional order, as it formerly existed because there would be a political deadlock. ADPS maintains that it is impossible for Diacounda to hold free and fair elections before his term expires as per the constitution.

Article 85 states: “The Constitutional Court is the judge of the constitutionality of the laws and it shall guarantee the fundamental laws of the individual and public liberties. It is the regulating body of the functioning of the institutions and the activity of the Public Powers.”

By instituting article 85 instead, ADPS calls on the constitutional court to organize a national forum with the purpose of legitimizing a transitional authority, an intermediate body that is not party bound and that can oversee the return to democracy.

Here are the governing principles of ADPS:

  1. Pass the state power to a body acceptable to all parties subject to validation by the Constitutional Court under Article 85 of the Constitution;
  2. Restore public confidence in the state and strengthen social peace and national harmony;
  3. Strengthen security measures for people and goods, restart and re-deploy the Administration, the economic and commercial activities;
  4. Ensure freedom of speech and press as well as equal access to all state media;
  5. Obtain immediate ceasefire in northern Mali for the total liberation of the country, the return of refugees and tranquility of the people in the northern part of our country;
  6. Avoid isolation of Mali at the regional and international levels and get support from the international community to implement the program of the Transition;
  7.  Fight against all illicit trafficking, terrorism and all forms of insecurity in the country;
  8. Reform and re-mobilize the armed forces and security by providing them with adequate means to defend the territorial integrity and national unity;
  9. Preserve the physical and moral integrity of all those arrested during the recent events, release those against whom there would be no charge, guarantee respect for human rights and a fair justice for all Malian;
  10. Democratic elections, free, credible and transparent within a realistic timeframe;
  11. Restore the authority of the State.

ADPS has met with embassies (American, French, and Algerian to name a few) and organizations hoping spread their message. To install Diacounda in power would be almost as if the coup was pointless. The coup was an expression of what every Malian has been feeling for the past few years. The feeling of being marginalized by the powers in office. By installing a transitional authority by the constitutional court as the intermediary body, ADPS is suggesting a fresh start while attaining an end goal of restoring the territorial integrity and also organizing elections in which all of Mali can participate. The regions of Gao, Kidal and Tombouctou need to be won back. Mali cannot do this alone. It needs the help of its neighbors to fight the better armed armies of MNLA and AQIM.

The solution has to come from within. In the countries where the international community has come up with the solution, those countries still struggle with the concept of democracy. Democratic rule of law that fits with the culture of its people are very essential to its success. ADPS hopes that while the international community will help with gaining back territories, but ultimately, the political solution to Mali’s crisis needs to be born on Mali soil and in the hearts of Malians.

ADPS hopes to invite all political leaders to a national forum. The Forum hopes to outline what ADPS espouses but more importantly, hopes that all political parties will put aside their partisan differences and will have one goal only and that is the good of Mali and the Malian people. It is also hoped at the Forum that Malians can together agree on how the transition can be managed, the period of transition and the President of the transition government. Also it will be essential to decide how the three lost territories can be won back effectively and without the loss of lives.

This national Forum is a crucial step in the restoration of national unity, territorial integrity and peace throughout Mali.

Once order is restored, then fair elections must be held. Fair elections are the very heart of democracy. Without free and fair elections, the leader that gets selected becomes a farce to be put up with.

My two cents. I hope that Mali, my adoptive country, will come together and build some consensus on how to resolve the power vacuum and how democracy can be successfully restored. We cannot blindly assume that things should return to the way they were two weeks ago. Things happen for a reason. The coup happened for a reason. That means something was not working. Now is Mali’s chance to rectify the thing that wasn’t working. To go back to the same situation would be to repeat the mistake that was made. If we do this, in 20 more years we will find ourselves at the same crossroads and no closer to a solution. Let’s get this right so that Mali as a whole can truly once again become the beacon of democracy it should be.

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Posted by on April 6, 2012 in Past Posts

 

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