Issa Bagayogo – Saye Mogo Bana : Mali Song of the Week

Previously, Issa Bagayogo has been applauded primarily for his wizardry in the use of electronic instruments – drum machines, samplers – to create a distinctive and exceptional “groove” by combining them with the more conventional sounds of Mali. This week’s Song has been plucked out to try and emphasise another string to his bow. ‘Saye Mogo Bana’ is the opening track on a very good afro-electro-hip-hop compilation album called African GrooveWhat dear Issa Bagayogo is not often credited with is his amazing voice. Sometimes overshadowed by technical aptitude and compelling compositions, Bagayogo should also be recognised for contributing the “soulful vocals” as well as the “bluesy ngoni” to his music, as pointed to in the album’s pull-out. His voice is smooth and easy on the ear, and sits neatly on top of the chilled rhythms he has orchestrated below.

 

Issa Bagayogo – Saye Mogo Bana

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

AfroCubism – Benséma : Mali Song of the Week

Whatever the political and economic consequences of President Obama’s trip to Cuba this week, we’ve learnt a bit about him and the country he visited. We can also see that a whole lot hasn’t changed. Another thing that has evidentially remained unchanged – during that 20th Century “constant” of the Cold War conflict between the US and Cuba – is that the Caribbean nation remains enamoured, at every turn, with music. Scenes from a Major League Baseball exhibition game between the Cuban national team and the Tampa Bay Rays held yesterday morning show jubilation in the crowds whenever the band started up – which appeared to be every other minute. Rapturous and genuine applause even bloomed at the final notes of the Star Spangled Banner. Ahead of the game President Obama penned a short article explaining the significance and purpose of the match:

“That’s what this visit is about: remembering what we share, reflecting upon the barriers we’ve broken.”

This is of course must be framed as a uniquely American reflection on Cuba. Other countries, particular those in Africa, have not endorsed the isolationist policies of the US and remember different struggles. On the contrary Cuba has a rich history of cooperation in Africa where they attacked barriers from the same side. Nelson Mandela famously thanked Castro and the Cuban people for the “selfless” support received for the anti-apartheid movement. In many ways its was the “critical” intervention in the gradual and successful defeat of apartheid. Apartheid itself means  “the state of being apart” when translated from Afrikaans. To be anti-apartheid is to show a willingness to come together. In this case it was for the advancement of the rights and liberties of people from the other side of the world.

It is a difficult truth for the US to digest, no less for Noble Peace Prize winner Obama. In an incredible exchange that just about everybody should watch, Mandela during his visit to the US in 1990 was challenged by Ken Adelman from the Institute of Contemporary Studies for his praise of the human rights advocacy of Gaddafi, Arafat and Castro. In his response, Mandela alludes to the comparatively lack of support the US government ever showed the ANC, which barely extended beyond rhetoric, in its fight for human rights in South Africa. With his ‘normalising’ speeches and actions in Cuba over the last few days Obama is trying to work his magic on a particularly prickly legacy of his predecessors; that all too often American diplomacy has failed to bring the world together. Utilising sport to correct this is not a new Cold War trick and indeed its going to take a whole lot of ballgames to convince some commentators that the US’s actions against Cuba ought to be laid to rest.

Sport and culture facilitates all sorts of diplomatic relations, though not always positive I hasten to add. This is no different in Mali. Its relations with South Africa for example have been nurtured through two recent projects: 1) the crucial assistance Mali received from South Africa when its ability to host the African Cup of Nations in 2002 looked in doubt and 2) the on-going South African-led Timbuktu manuscript restoration and preservation project. With Cuba, Mali shares its music. Historically, Mali had some Cold War ties with Cuba, but over the last century its music has bound its people together more closely – even if many of them may not have known it.

Sadly, in researching this article I couldn’t find direct evidence of Malian and Cuban official relations being nurtured though musical connections, though I’m sure I would eventually. In a visit to the country last year, it is reported that (the source is from the Cuban Communist Party) President of the National Assembly of Mali, Issaka Sidibé, “thanked Cuban authorities for their cooperation with his country in various spheres, including health, sport and education”. Advancing cultural exchange was high on the agenda also. The musical harmony between the two countries is captured in this week’s Song of The Week. It hints at that unquantifiable, allusive and often dismissed quality, the very existence of it and its transformative powers Obama is banking will take hold in Cuba. Like sport music has a common language. A set of rules recognised nearly everywhere. Toumani Diabate – who features in this week’s SOTW – explained how during the AfroCubism project the various musicians from Mali, Cuba and elsewhere:

“…cannot even speak together on stage…music has created its own language. It’s the music message, and I think the message is true to the audiences [and] to the world also at the same time.”

It provides hope that separated peoples – by the Straights of Florida or the Atlantic Ocean, by education or simply by the passage of time – can find common intrinsically human pursuits to strip away the polluting effects of titles, labels, ignorance and othering. In its place there is always a chance for peace, happiness and cooperation. But just a chance.

 

AfroCubism – Benséma

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Terakaft – Karambani : Mali Song of the Week

The word ‘caravane’, caravan, or ‘terakaft’ – the translation of the band’s name – has great meaning in Mali. Far from the British understanding (damp holidays in Devon) the word denotes motion, movement. Not a unnerving breeze-enduced axel-rocking but rather movement as in travelling purposefully or for transportation. A movement of people, goods, livelihoods but also ideas, knowledge, gossip and music. Roaming, but far from aimlessly. Always with direction.

Recently, a Cultural Caravan for Peace has began making its way around the festivals of Mali. Originally starting in 2013, the Caravan has cleverly and successfully captured the imagination of festival-goers and has therefore delivered on its goal “to promote dialogue, cultural exchange and social cohesion in areas of the Sahara and the Sahel”. The idea of using caravan as a concept in this way is catching on. The band Terakaft used proceeds of their most recent album Alone – from which ‘Karambani’ hails – to fund a ‘medical caravan’ the details of which have sadly disappeared into a timed-out website. Regardless, its the use of the concept which is interesting. Similarly the arrival of a caravan for “water, land and seeds” in Bamako last week caught the attention of the media. One disgruntled farmer explained their purpose: “we are walking for their attention“. Here we see the real significance of a caravan – it is something you can participate in and become a part of. It readily becomes a social and political process. Not always, but sometimes. It makes you an activist.

Music features heavily in caravan imagery. The bands producer Justin Adams explains how Diara, the founder of Terakaft, orinagated the distinctive electric guitar style that immediately conjures scenes of camels slinking stoically through dunes. Adams describes it as a “camel groove, the lope” dropping his shoulder in a sway as he says it.

Interestingly, Adams continues to explain their approach to creating the album by firstly acknowledging the differences between the band’s musical aura live and when recorded, but also noticing their increasing talents in the recording studio. Subsequently, Adams saw an opportunity to push the boat out a little further with Alone. In a modernisation of their approach they found a way of unearthing and unleashing traditonal “ancient rhythms”.

The album Alone therefore acts as a caravan itself: carrying a precious cargo of musical intricacies from another age through to the ears of the present day.

Terakaft – Karambani

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Vieux Farka Toure & Julia Easterlin – Little Things : Mali Song of the Week

This week Vieux Farka Toure links up with American singer-songwriter Julia Easterlin. A new one for me too, but she’s taking the US by storm already as the “one-woman acapella group” and the “one-woman chorus“. This new, industrious, loop-machining young woman met Farka Toure in New York in 2014. Vieux Farka Toure has quite a knack for these spontaneous meetings – the story of this album’s creation sounding quite similar to that magical one with Idan Rachel, the Israeli pianist. As with Rachel, it wasn’t long before the pair knew they had something exciting brewing;  “within about one or two hours we had created four songs together” he explains.

It is astonishing how easily it appears that such delights can come together. Again, Six Degrees Records comes up with some fantastic stories of how another of their releases came to be:

“Julia Easterlin’s melody and lyrics are new, but they are built upon a classic West African song, “Kaira.” Both Vieux and his late father, the legendary blues guitarist Ali Farka Touré, have recorded “Kaira” before; this time, Vieux explains, “I played it in a bit of a new way on guitar, in my own style, and Julia began to improvise on top.””

Toure must have something special about him to enable him to mold and meld his way into all sorts of different musical environments. It must be another manifestation of the theory that historic west African music forms part of the base for contemporary music around the world. The album Touristes from which this week’s song hails from is certainly a music person’ s album. There are all sorts of musical homages, easily exposed influences and plenty of creative “re-imaginings” – as Easterlin would describe them – even before you get to the three ‘startling‘ covers. ‘Little Things’ is a quasi-original; a rework of a West African classic into a modern, yet naturally pleasing, song.

Vieux Farka Toure & Julia Easterlin – Little Things

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Segal – Passa Quatro

This song comes from the very long awaited second album from cello-kora duo Sissoko and Segal; Musique de Nuit. It does not disappoint as it more than matches the precision and delicacy of their first album Chamber MusicIf you’re in Bristol and are pondering what to do tonight then you could to worse that pop along to St Georges Church Concert Hall to see these two sensational musicians live. A suitably elegant venue for each achingly beautiful chord.

I will save my words for another time – a comprehensive review, forensic in detail, of the whole album has already been published on the Six Degrees Records website and is certainly worth a read. It is fascinating to read of the influences and elements captured in Musique de Nuit and it is pleasing to see Sissoko and Segal avoid the ‘2nd album syndrome’ trap by choosing not to make a futile attempt to recapture the magic of the 1st. Its clear that they are moving things forward.

Whilst you listen, I would recommend watching the gentle, simple video to this song. Take the time out of your day to enjoy the float down stream.

Ballaké Sissoko & Vincent Segal – Passa Quatro

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Mylmo – Dakan Tigui : Mali Song of the Week

Confronting defeat can sometimes be a more rewarding process than celebrating victory. Earlier this month a superb African Nations Cup (not to be confused with the African Cup of Nations) came to a painful close for Mali – the Eagles slumped to a 3 – 0 defeat against the DR Congo in the Amahoro Stadium in Kigali, Rwanda. An electric evening for their opponents saw Mali fail to register; stunned by an outrageous opening goal from 19 year old Meshack Elia. This strike inspired a victory celebrated far and wide; even by the DRC’s UN Stabilization Mission MONUSCO. No similar commentary from is Malian sister mission MINUSMA – dubbed the most dangerous peacekeeping mission on Earth – which from its Twitter feed looked to be slightly preoccupied with an armed assault on one of its bases at the time.

The unique brilliance of the African Nations Cup is that only players playing for a club in their country of origin are allowed to participate. The tournament thus rouses a different sense of pride amongst its followers. Rather than celebrating the excellence of those who break into the European leagues – their nation’s ambassadors reunited under their flag – it was instead the time to celebrate the younger, blossoming talents still delighting fans up and down the Sahel. In a situation that was described as “do or die” for these young footballers, their comprehensive defeat could have been a crushing moment in their promising careers and yet another blow to the country’s spirit.

Quite the opposite. The defeated Eagles were welcomed home “as heroes” with crowds, music, and speeches filling the Stade Modibo Keïta in Bamako. It was quite clear that Mali had decided to enjoy itself. Yes, they did not win, but by defying the instinct to succumb to disappointment Malian’s proved to each other that they were capable of more. Anyone can celebrate victory – it takes true pride, dedication and willingness to celebrate defeat. Summarising the mood Malian Football Federation Vice-President Kassoum Coulibaly said:

“You’ve stumbled on the day of the final, but you have not fallen with the flag.You have today written a glorious page of the Malian football. Tomorrow again I’m sure you’ll do more than you did in Kigali.” [translated from French using Google]

The optimism for the future is striking and cannot be an emotion many Malian politicians or public servants has had too much practice in over recent years. It aligns itself with the report last week which detailed how at the Festival Acoustik de Bamako it was Mali’s youth that stole the show and frenzied the crowd.  In front of the welcoming crowds in the Stadium Modibo Keita, the presence of rap artists like Mylmo provoked a growing optimism in Mali’s young people. There is a much darker side to this – with anecdotal stories from Malian musicians performing here in the UK all confirming a frightening trend of drugs and violence becoming an all-too-common past-time for a generation its country failed when it crumbled into war (the terrifying yet excellent Christian Aid & The Joliba Trust report into The Power of Drug Money is a must read in this regard). But rap musicians have offered an alternative voice. As Andy Morgan writes in a gripping and eye-opening article:

“When the country’s government collapsed…it was Mali’s hip hop scene that was the loudest and most relevant voice. At a moment when music’s political value seems like a thing of the past, hip hop in Mali is at the center of a discussion about democracy, globalisation and tradition.”

Indeed it isn’t just the future that Mali’s young people and musical pioneers are illuminating. It is also finding a way to connect a generation with their traditions and locality. Legendary kora player Ballaké Sissoko explains:

“Rap is pretty new as a scene in Mali. I think it’s a good thing in a way. It inspires the youth to make music, which they do in their language. It might sound American in its production but it’s still very local.”

This week’s Song of the Week has been plucked out to showcase that traditional-modern awareness and celebrate the work of Malian rappers. Its not the traditional sounds we are perhaps more used to hearing here, but its the music that is encouraging, inspiring and leading a generation to consider a future that isn’t condemned to defeat.

 

Mylmo – Dakan Tigui

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Toumani Diabaté’s Symmetric Orchestra – Mali Sadio : Mali Song of the Week

Quite a tragic choice of song considering this week’s subject matter. The music itself is triumphant, relentless – a Malian griot’s response to “We Will Rock You” but with Freddie Mercury’s half-rap substituted for cascading, whirling, soaring kora, spellbinding vocals with that stadium-thumping beat. Triumphant is definitely the spirit of today as the music world celebrates the symbolic importance and the outright splendour of Bamako’s first major international music festival since le crise in 2012 – the Festival Acoustik de Bamako.

But why tragic? Well that lies in the tale of ‘Mali Sadio’, an old Malian story passed down generations through oral traditions. It details the friendship (borderlind love affair, in some versions) between a woman and a hippopotamus. A hunter, becoming infatuated with the woman, kills her friend the hippo, but – unsurprisingly – finds her not more amiable than before. Disastrously for the woman’s village, it turns out that the hippo was doing a very good job of keeping the dangers of the natural world away – a security now lost and terror ensues. The moral of the story: “the selfish actions of a single person bring pain and hardship on many others“.

Bamako knows plenty about that. So perhaps the story is fitting – a celebration, a mass outpouring of delight between peoples when they find music, their “guardian hippo” (I am sure that’s a thing), alive and well. In fact, its full of youth and life with rap stars and local talent . The festival was masterminded by Toumani Diabaté, organised by Fatoumata Sow, and championed by Culture Minister N’Diaye Ramatoulaye Diallo. Minister Diallo explains that Mali’s music is its chief export its “our oil”. It is also more than that its the best channel Mali has open to the world to say “hey, we’re here. We are still living”. Its a brave shout with an official State of Emergency enduring. Anyone who is anyone in Malian music seemed to have been there. Associated musicians and collaborators too – like Derek Gripper, Tony Allan,  and Damon Albarn – ‘defied terrorism threats‘ to be there, the former using his classical guitar skills to emulate in tribute to Diabaté’s exceptional kora. Of course, Toumani Diabaté is top of the pile and thus unemulatable – if you want to bathe in his majesty you have to go to the man himself, hence this week’s choice. A choice that certainly wants to bring attention to Diabaté’s lesser known work with his Symmetric Orchestra who headlined the Festival’s Friday line-up.

The people of Bamako will be delighted to have the State of Emergency swapped for a state of euphoria – albeit temporarily. The sense of normality with people out in the streets, enjoying the music, with international stars and media coming and going safely is far more significant. Bamako and the world has obviously enjoyed the success of the occasion. But what of the rest of Mali? Inclusiveness was emphasised in the event’s organisation – artists from the north were there but none of them Toureg, apparently. This suggests that despite the best efforts of  Mali’s heroes, its people, its government, and the world – the country remains fractured, inaccessible and frayed. Not helplessly, but simply still. 

The festival has to be taken for what it is. A great leap forward. An oasis in an conflict that still has no end in sight. An expression of unity, peace and communal joy counter to those selfish acts that have brought so much pain and hardship to ordinary people all over Mali.

 

 

Toumani Diabaté’s Symmetric Orchestra – Mali Sadio

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Djelimady Tounkara – Fanta Bourama: Mali Song of the Week

Song Of The Week? On a Friday?!

Yes – apologies for the delay. But trust me, this one is worth the wait. Boggled that Tounkara’s acoustic-guitar spectacular hadn’t been a SOTW already, it was time to set the record straight. It is equally astonishing that a man of such accolade has only been plucked out once to provide our weekly musical highlight.

All of that changes today with ‘Fanta Bourama’, the opening track of both his 2011 album ‘Solon Kono‘ and the highly enjoyable complication disc ‘The Rough Guide to African Guitar Legends‘. The song’s opening realises a bridge between Morocco and Spain – a structure which in engineering terms remains a fantasy yet is a long-time cultural reality. Each pluck of a string strips down to that quintessential Mediterranean sound, fusing two continents together in that ever-rolling exchange initiated by the Berbers with their invasion of Spain nearly 1300 years ago.

Tounkara, a member of Mali’s prestigious and ground-breaking Rail Band, has added his own magic to the mix. The Rail Band exemplified the West African 1970s affinity for Iberian, Cuban and Latin music. Tounkara’s supreme talent with an acoustic guitar made him the best equipped to delve deep into this world and allowed him to emerge with the most exquisite results. It was a great shame then that he was unable to take up his invitation to join the gathering musical grandmasters in Cuba in that super-group which was to become the Buena Vista Social Club.

Not that he needed it. So busy collaborating, inventing and performing was Tounkara he only got round to producing his first studio album in 2001, producing several others since. With ‘oversight’ being the surprise theme of the week, each of these gifts to the world will be meticulously combed from now on. You can be sure to hear some more of his gems before long.

 

Djemilady Tounkara – Fanta Bourama

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Rokia Traoré – Kèlè Mandi: Mali Song of the Week

A song of immense beauty tops the bill this week as we delve into the depths of Rokia Traore’s earlier work. ‘Kèlè Mandi’ hails from her third studio album ‘Bowmboï’ released in 2003. Justifying their choice for making its Album of the Year, BBC Radio 3 highlighted the view that ‘Bowmboï’ represented “a defining release for an artist who must now be considered world class”.  The real delight in the album is not the racy, high-energy music that Mali is more commonly associated; instead “it’s in the slower pieces where the production allows detail to shine – as in her use of vocal harmonies…and constantly surprising little instrumental colours.”

‘Kèlè Mandi’ is a delicate master-piece that allows us to hear each of those features in perfect balance. The guitar flowing alongside the vocals, which flutter and climb with a gentle strength. It makes the song electrifying, yet relaxing, like a lone tenor in the majesty of a cathedral. But it is more earthy and colourful than that.

Traore is a true realisation of that famous phrase: that form is temporary and class is permanent. Fast-forward to today and she is still going strong, perhaps stronger and wiser than ever. She is in London this week, performing at the Roundhouse on February 6th ahead of the release of her new album ‘Ne So’ on February 12th. Confessing not to be overtly political, Traoré explains in a separate interview – back at the BBC on January 27th – that the title track of the album, which means “home”, is “an invitation to think about the idea of ‘home’.” She continues saying that we forget that having somewhere to call home “is the basis of all in life …and when you understand the importance of home, you can understand the problem for people who have suddenly have no home” referring to the appalling situation of millions of refugees from Africa and the Middle-East. Pressing the issue she stresses the point that when you fully consider a refugee’s position in this way it becomes so clear that they “are not animals, they are humans.”

When confronted with someone who sings in multiple languages it is not often possible (unless you are very brainy)  to follow the exact meaning of each of their songs, especially when they tackle complex issues like the one above. But there is another, much more simple way of at least getting an idea of what she wishes to convey – simply tune into the abundant warmth , colour and staggering emotion in her music.

 

 

Rokia Traoré – Kèlè Mandi

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Habib Kioté – N’Ba : Mali Song of the Week

Its been two months since the Radisson Blu Hotel attack in Bamako where at least 20 people were killed. Among the dead were three executives from the international arm of the China Railway Construction Corporation. Why were these Chinese citizens there and what does this tell us about China’s interests in Africa? Firstly, a bit of back-story: China and Mali have just completed a deal to completely revolutionise international rail travel in the Sahel by building a 1286km railway to Dakar the port capital city of Senegal. There is also a project tabled to build another line to another port city – Conakry in Guinea. These two projects come with a cost of a whopping $10 billion (reflecting for a moment that Mali’s entire GDP for 2014 was $12.04 billion). It represents a significant investment to say the least. China is thirsty for resources,  Mali is desperate to sell them. What is needed is an efficient way to get them from one country to the other – China needs this railway as much as Mali does.

Should this be celebrated overtly or cautiously? Its no doubt that a splash of modern infrastructure is a good thing. However, many have warned of a growing Chinese imperialism – China using its dominance economically in an exploitative manner. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has assured that cooperation across Africa would not “take the old road by traditional powers” nor “sacrifice Africa’s environment and long-term interests”. We’ve heard that one before, and raises another question about the complicity of Mali’s own elite; is it the everyday Malian that will benefit from or bear the cost of this arrangement? How much choice does a struggling country like Mali have? Often the case is made that it is necessary, or even preferable, to short-cut some democratic processes to allow the sweeping changes need to ‘eradicate’ poverty. This article argues that is a false choice. Jan Abbink from The Broker Online explains:

“Apart from the morally questionable aspects in this line of thinking, there is considerable doubt about the approach’s long-term effects. Also scientifically, it is dubious. There is no significant evidence that hardline authoritarian rule in development will be durable or that it will provide social cohesion.”

He continues, clarifying that:

“Of course neither is there significant evidence that democratic models guarantee growth and stability, especially not in multi-ethnic countries. Skewed economic policies, exclusivism and unfairness in the distribution of ‘resources’, non-transparent, non-representational politics, and phantom justice systems will, at some point, inevitably create emergent protests, social movements, resistance or silent sabotage among the population not getting a good deal.”

In the case of Mali, we already have resistance and a not-so-silent sabotage from a population perceivably not getting a good deal. We also have the spectre of international militant groups and their splintered associates to contend with. The issue in Mali is not exclusively developmentalist, but also a global security matter which China’s bulging economic demands are rubbing up against increasingly. Harry Verhoeven of the University of Oxford observes that ” the PRC is slowly but surely giving up its controversial policy of non-interference. This is not so much the product of a carefully considered foreign policy shift as it is a logical response to both acute security crises on the [African] continent in recent years and China’s re-emergence as a global power with ever greater interests, ever further afield.” This shift, which has staggering implications for the rest of the planet, has lead to one commentator to declare that China is on “a collision course” with ISIS, providing particular detail on the scale of China’s dependence on its investments in the developing world coming good and ISIS’s own efforts to target China.

With so much at stake, has China visably changed its behaviour in response to a  deteriorating security situation? China had already broken new ground in regards to its approach to peacekeeping opertaions before the Radisson attack. This article even argued ahead of time that China’s cautious attitude “might change overnight if an attack on Chinese companies or civilians takes place in the region”. It is always interesting to see when the economic interests of a superpower are threatened, logisitical issues across Africa become a solvable issue – of course, only when resources and materials are moving out of Africa. Getting things in, trivial things like humanitarian aid and essential relief to those suffering today is another story. Professor Ian Taylor from the University of St Andrews comments on this wider trend in Africa. He writes that “the fundamental problem facing Africa is governance…” adding “it doesn’t matter how many roads or ports” you have. Indeed, Alessandra Dentice, the deputy representative of Unicef, says her agency’s efforts are being frustrated by “the lack of government personnel in certain areas”. Getting the country secure and governed correctly in a more holistic way, more than just closing up porous borders and managing to keep a railway open, is required.

We must fear that instead of the country being rebuilt, it will simply be hollowed out.

 

Habib Kioté – N’Ba

 

Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

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