Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Sidi Touré – Maïmouna

“I found them more stupid than evil” wrote Nicolas Hénin in summary of his thoughts on Isis. Held captive by them for 10 months he notes what he has seen of them beyond their polished propaganda – pathetic street kids drunk on ideology and power. He adds “That is not to understate the murderous potential of stupidity”.

The attacks in Paris this weekend past were horrid. The numbers of dead and injured, photos of devastation, comments from family, friends and from far-flung strangers acting in solidarity have been well-publicised. In-between feelings of disbelief, people all over the world tried to make sense of it all. What would be an appropriate response individually and for France, in war and in mourning? Who are they, and why did they do it? Even trivial questions like ‘should the football still go ahead?’ gripped headlines. And thankfully the football did (at least in England) as even Clive Tyldesley – commentator for ITV Sport on yesterday’s emotive England v France game – managed to spare the errant sensationalism to contextualise events in a wider misery. Immediately before the “perfectly observed” minute silence he placed Paris alongside cities in Nigeria, Lebanon and Kenya – drawing viewers attention to the fact that events in Paris were high-profile but unfortunately did not stand alone.

Cities in Mali are in the same club. Bound to other places of civilian slaughter around the world. How many of these received the same response at Paris and why does that matter? Much has been said about the bias in the media, especially Facebook, in the past few days. Just about everyone knows that Facebook has algorithms that prioritise certain bits of information. Buzz words, headlines. All promoted and bumped up by sponsors. But Facebook has taken certain decisions that appear to favour western tragedies over others, which is slightly different, and will apparently change in future due to the outrage. Despite this, Malian’s still found their way to express their solidarity online, Songhoy Blues among them – the band being in Paris at the time. Many frequently expressed the sense of a favour-owed following the French military intervention in 2013. Will the war in Mali remain ‘forgotten‘ or will this provoke renewed focus on a country that appears to be slipping back to widespread violence?

From reading exceptional actions of individuals on Friday evening and the following day we are reminded of the actions of Lassana Bathily, the young Malian man who protected a group of frightened shoppers from the assault at the Parisian Kosher supermarket back in January. Can we expect everyone to be exceptional in these circumstances? Perhaps its transforming the global interconnected mourning and outrage into meaningful action that would be a more reasonable expectation. Its all of us acting together in a small way that makes the bigger difference, which makes the message highlighted in last week’s Song of the Week even more pertinent. In light of events since it is probably worth reviewing.


Sidi Touré – Maïmouna


Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group –

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at 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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *