Tag Archives: aid

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

Mali News #5 – Forces enter Diabaly and Douentza

Journalists queue to enter Diabaly this morning. All rights @joepenney

First of all Bruce Whitehouse’s situation report from the 18th of January is a must read for catching up on what has been happening in Mali.

Beyond that though there are a few interesting perspectives and pieces that it’s worth reading. First of all, lest anyone focus overly much on the conflict, it’s important to continue to highlight the extreme humanitarian crisis arriving in the wake of the conflict zones. The UN is predicting up to 710,000 people will be forced to leave their homes due to the crisis, and the international aid organisations can not cope with those numbers and the acute nature of the deprivation they are seeing. 

Civil society’s response to what they rightly see as a foreign invasion continues as people in Gao lynch an Islamist Chief who had a popular journalist killed (fr). These are not scenes that we would want to see, but they give a strong indication to the Malian people’s thoughts in the areas still occupied by the terrorist organisations in the North.

Today French forces took the central towns of Diabaly and Douentza from Al-Queda linked rebels. Quickly followed by a horde of journalists who follow the action as you can see above. As government sponsored forces continue to advance we will hear more harrowing stories of life under the terrorists, “With a razor, one of the rebel leaders traced a circle on my forearm before chopping it off with a sharp knife”.

The final update from Northern Africa has been the Algerian hostage situation which was widely linked to the situation in Mali. While it’s unclear to what extent the attack was related to what is going on in Mali, what is important is the Prime Minister’s announcement today that, “We must support effective and accountable government, back people in their search for a job and a voice and work with the UN and our international partners to solve long-standing political conflicts and grievances.” Strong rhetoric from the Prime Minister in his speech, which referred to Mali, and we can hope that Britain will commit to building resilience in Mali after this conflict has finished.

For those who want a thorough and insightful understanding into the roots of Al Qaida in the Sahara region they should look no further than this extract from Andy Morgan.

Finally, the conflict has given greater prevalence to other aspects of Mali’s offering to the world. The guardian highlighted, ‘Mali’s magical music’. And Mali’s opening 1-0 over Niger in the Africa Cup of Nations. Hopefully the powerful nature of these two facets of Malian life will show the world that there is more to Mali, and bring  people together in solidarity, supporting Mali.