Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Fatoumata Diawara – Bissa

Is the situation in Mali getting better? Or is it getting worse? How do we even attempt to answer this question? The common reference point for many is the 2012/13 conflict. What great achievements has Mali secured since then? In what way does the country continue to slide further out of control?

To concentrate temporarily on the good stuff, there has been one headline grabbing ‘break-through’ moment in recent weeks. Even more important than the Bamako-Segou Highway having almost been completed is that Mali has been declared “Ebola Free” after going 42 days without a new reported case. The virus claimed 6 lives and infected 8 since October. The resilience of Mali’s health system has been tested, and comparatively speaking, it has scraped through successfully…for now. Mali, for the most part remains a post-conflict, developing country and the region’s healthcare systems have been decimated by Ebola. Like every internal issue affecting Mali today, it must be considered within its international context.

Balancing and structuring a narrative about the national and international ‘setting’ of Mali’s struggles is done excellently in this piece by Andrew Lebovich. In a succinct and accessible manner, Lebovich reminds us of the complexity of the issues at hand, and indeed contributes plenty more questions to those that started this article – how can we measure success in Mali? Worthy of significant consideration are the issues of the Tuareg, the remnants of the MNLA, illegal drug trade, gangs, French intervention, regional diplomacy and trade to name a few.

One good bit of regional news is the return of the Festival sur le Niger for its 11th edition, at which Fatoumata Diawara is expected to play alongside an all-star cast of fellow Malians. In international news, a Malian-born man has been awarded French citizenship following his “heroic” actions at the kosher restaurant where he worked when it was attacked by a gunman, killing 4. The story of Lassana Bathily is a small beam of goodness is the misery that has racked Parisian society over the last month.

After a such a mixed update of all things Mali, a populist choice for Song of the Week has been made. The song has over 900,000 views on YouTube since its 2011 upload and following its release on Diawara’s first album ‘Fatou‘.


Fatoumata Diawara – Bissa

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