Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Toumani Diabate – Ismael Drame

As Europe finally appears to be acknowledging the sheer scale for the refugee crisis, we are reminded of a piece covered previously by the Hub written by Alex Duval Smith. Catching up with her writing recently, it is delightful to see some unadulterated good news being reported. Wanting to post this weeks ago, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you Mali’s “most dedicated postman“.

Aboubacar Doumbia, the a man who “lives and breathes” public service, arrives at Duval Smith’s door as a refreshing and wholly unexpected change to the corrupt and dysfunctional public administration that characterises Mali.  Having cobbled together his impeccable uniform, including his home-made cap, he zooms around Bamako on a bright yellow scooter. Endearingly, he appears to refer to himself in the third person regularly – as a sign of respect and admiration of the virtues and ideals of his profession: “If the postman ever returns a letter to sender – which is rare – he feels terrible. That day he has failed in his duties as a public servant.”

Like Postman Aboubacar, faced with government inaction and endemic failure, German citizens have also taken matters into their own hands, and have inspired many other European citizens to do the same. A website called Refugees Welcome has been created to matchmake citizens willing to share their homes with refugees. Two of the site’s founders, Jonas Kakoschke, 31, and Mareike Geiling, 28, live with 39-year-old Bakari Conan, a refugee from Mali, whom they are helping with German classes while he waits for a work permit. The welcoming phrase ‘Refugees Welcome’ has caught on in all different walks of German life including football, which is a good barometer in any European country of how popular a policy is.

The refugee crisis is revealing a lot about the sense of global public service seen within the different populations of Europe. Britain is scoring spectacularly low at present, though it is one of the biggest contributors to aid programmes in countries neighbouring Syria like Lebanon. European aid programmes usually run along colonial ties. Mali’s main source of aid is France for example and, so the theory goes, Britain concentrates on Ghana, Nigeria and others instead. Migration usually follows a similar pattern. However, in the case of Bakari these ties have been broken by the scale of German hospitality. And though Britain’s efforts on humanitarian funding look sound, more long-term European development aid programmes have been greatly discredited by Duval Smith in her original article as well as others. She observes them as being a big part of the cause of the crisis as the do little to resolve the problems of everyday people and instead prop-up the perpetrating regimes and broken economic systems.

Without a serious shift in emphasis away from aid to increasing asylum quotas, Britain will not be moving up the score board any time soon it seems.



Toumani Diabate – Ismael Drame

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