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Mali’s Northern mess

In some aspects of life, Mali seems almost normal. There is few things in the South that suggest that only a few months ago, a coup happened that changed the lives of Malians in this generation and for generations to come. The prices of food remain elevated and the increased presence of security are few of the signs that indicate the unrest of 4 months ago.

The story in the North seems to be a different story altogether. With two different operating standards and governments, Mali has indeed been divided. Till last week, Mali’s North was governed heavily by the Tuareg rebels. For centuries this nomadic group has waged its war for independence. It success in Mali came at a weak moment for the Malian government, but it came none the less. With no recognized security in Northern Mali and a weak Malian army, no ground has been made in regaining the North. Last week, Ansar Dine, overtook the region and became the major players. At least with the two sharing power, it seemed that the Tuaregs in Tombouctou would still get their hope to lead themselves. However that was not to be. Last week, the Tuaregs were ousted by Ansar Dine or the “Protectors of the Faith”.

So how dangerous is Ansar Dine? With Ansar Dine being corrupted with elements of AQIM and Boko Haram, Ansar Dine is indeed a tremendous danger to returning stability to the region.  The main aim of Ansar Dine is to make North Mali another depot for extremist Islam. And so far they are having much success. Areas, especially Tombouctou, are teeming with Islamic extremists. While Islam was the practiced religion of the region, it was practiced with moderateness. In fact Tombouctou was known for its age-old monuments that depicted broad-minded Islamic teaching. With Shariah in place now, Islam has become the imprisonment for the people of North Mali. Religious freedoms are no longer allowed, alcohol banned, women made to clothe themselves from head to toe despite the summer heat of 130F and men and women not allowed to mix.  Almost reminds you of prison, doesn’t it?  Many of these individuals have grown up free to practice Islam and their way of life. They have been part of something bigger when they were part of Mali. Now they are dispensable pawns in an extremist Islamic agenda. You know how they say; the grass is always greener on the other side. Sometimes when you get to the other side, you realize the sun must have been playing tricks on your eyes. Now, don’t get me wrong. I would be the first to advocate independence for a group that believes their rights have been infringed on. However, I also believe in happiness of the majority. The Tuaregs are a minority (6%) compared with other ethnicities that call Mali home. By giving the Tuaregs a separate land, the Mali government would be condemning another ethnic group. If the Tuaregs had stood with the Malian army and defeated the Islamic rebels, then the North would probably not be in this state. Yes, the initial failure was the coup, but the domino effect could have been halted by the Tuaregs. Instead, in a moment of personal gratification, we now have a fallen state that has been impossible to regain because of the buildup of rebel groups, each group crazier than the one before it.  Mali’s failure has come from groups that believe in their personal agenda, first the politicians of old, then the junta and now the Tuaregs. The Tuaregs have long distrusted the Malian government believing that they have been marginalized. Other groups in Mali like the Bambara on the other hand believe that the Tuaregs are given special preference over other ethnic groups that Mali has a higher majority of like the Songhai and Peul and believe this is unfair. This was the perfect storm that could have gone either way. Standing with the Mali army would have strengthened the trust relationship.  Standing against them was opening the door to a stronger group taking over.

That is exactly what has happened with Ansar Dine. Now, in addition to the increased humanitarian crisis afflicting the Northern regions of Mali, there has been an attack on century old history. Part of Islamic extremism preaches that people should be focused on Allah (God) alone. Nothing should take his place and there shouldn’t be a distraction of other things or places that Muslims worship. This ideology has seen Ansar Dine destroying the tombs of the Sufi saints that have been there for centuries and setting fire to the contents inside the tomb. They have also broken the gate of a famous 15th-century Sidi Yahya mosque. The door is considered sacred and was to remain closed until the end of the world. In their minds, Ansar Dine is removing the symbols that will distract Muslims in the North from Allah. The destruction has brought about worldwide and UN condemnation, for these places fall under the UN World Heritage sites. Malians, North and South, too are united in their anger by this destruction.  It is angering and dreadful that history has been destroyed and by continuing to destroy these sites, our future generations are being deprived of the things that symbolize culture and tradition. Imagine if the Statue of Liberty or the Washington Monument was attacked and destroyed. When the twin towers fell, the sadness was unspeakable. The loss of life unbearable. The same is happening on a smaller scale in Mali and it is only a matter of time before it worsens.

This has gone on too long. Time is the one thing Malians do not have. We do not have the time to let Ansar Dine get comfortable. To do so would spell doom for Mali’s Northern territory and people. To not do anything would allow terrorism to flourish. This is a war, not just Mali but the world cannot afford to lose.

 
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Posted by on July 6, 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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