News / Africa

A Look Inside Northern Mali

VOA reporter Idrissa Fall details his experiences reporting in Mali after the coup in this special edition of Reporter's Notebook:

"Well it was kind of scary because crossing the border from Niger to Mali you first come to the first checkpoint in an area called Labasanga. You see these young kids 16 to 18 years old with their guns.  Most of the time they look at you.  They don’t ask for papers.  They didn’t check my luggage.  They let us go with my driver and my fixer.  It is how we get inside Gao.  The most scary part was coming inside Gao and looking for rebels. And then you discover the city -- all the major leaders of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb are there.  And that change the whole reporting I was doing.

I was wearing local clothes, I looked like some guy who (1:05) put these Tuareg things on my face so nobody would know who I was.  But the day I went to interview a physician in the hospital and coming out and seeing these guys who look like Pakistanis or Afghanis who were asking who I was, speaking in English, then you get scared.  And when we went out of the hospital, my fixer told me this guy is from Iraq, I was saying, “Well, this is not a rebel-controlled area.  It looks like an area controlled especially by Islamist extremists.”

They are applying what they call Sharia, the Islamic law.  According to the Islamic law, when you steal something or you use drugs, they have the right according to law to cut your right hand [off].  And this kid when I met him, it looked like he lost his mind.  He’s wandering in the city asking for money and so I took pictures of him.  He couldn’t even explain what happened to him.  So he’s there wandering in the streets of Gao.

The churches were down. Nothing was left.  They took off the doors, the windows, everything in the name of Jesus Christ was taken off.  Really people go there to do their toilets [relieve themselves] now inside churches.  And it is the same thing for whatever was restaurants or bars selling alcohol.  Even the cyber cafes that you used to go to access the Internet… they destroyed everything.  It is the same for the banks.  They looted all the banks.  There are no banks working.  And the only bank left was the headquarters of the rebels.  And no money, no Western Union.  It is very, very tough.

The rule of Islamic law is women have to cover [up].  You know the hijab, when you see only the eyes? Now all the young ladies are wearing hijab.  They got the message, because if you don’t do it, you’re going to be in trouble.  On the other hand, I met this courageous woman.  Her name is Nafisatu Maige.  I remember her.  When I interviewed her, she said, "Listen, I used to wear a veil because of my own conviction as a Muslim.  But since the Islamists came and wanted to impose the hijab on me,  I am defying them.  I don’t wear a veil. I don’t wear a hijab.”  She’s driving her motorcycle every day.  Even she allowed herself to go into those meetings only reserved for men.  And she would go there to meet with the chief of security with a guy name Abdul Hakim, and she says she’s ready to die, she’s ready to be killed.  But she will not wear a veil.  Really it is a kind of courage and she was not the only one.

I think it is like Afghanistan, because you have Islamic [law], you have drug trafficking. You have hostages they take.  And the only difference in Afghanistan is that you have a military presence of the international community and there is nobody in the north in Mali.  You may have another Somalia.  You may have another Yemen.
I think we were the first international radio down there.  Being able to go in the field, even sometimes if it is dangerous, even for one day, being able to come back and tell to the world what’s going on there I think is very, very important.

You May Like

Germany Celebrates 25 Years of Unity

October 3 is a public holiday, marking the day in 1990 when East Germany and West Germany reunited More

Analysts: Russia's Syria Strikes Shake Regional Powers

If Moscow bolsters Assad, Saudi Arabia, other Gulf countries may feel obliged to step in More

Video Innovative Nano-Tech Water Filter Prevents Disease

It can absorb contaminants like copper, bacteria, viruses and pesticides, says Askwar Hilonga, who has been successfully trying out his product in Arusha More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs