News / Africa

Gao Residents Rebuild, after Islamist Occupation

Gao Residents Rebuild, after Islamist Occupationi
X
April 17, 2013 5:18 PM
The Malian army officially reclaimed the northern city of Gao from the al-Qaida-linked Islamist group MUJAO on January 27th -- after 10 months of occupation. But now, three months later, the state is still struggling to reassert its presence in the city and the surrounding region. VOA's Anne Look was in Gao for this report on a city trying to rebuild -- after a tumultuous year that residents say showed them what they were made of.
Anne Look
The Malian army officially reclaimed the northern city of Gao from the al-Qaida-linked Islamist group MUJAO on January 27 --  after 10 months of occupation.  But now, three months later, the state is still struggling to reassert its presence in the city and the surrounding region. The city is trying to rebuild -- after a tumultuous year that residents say showed them what they were made of.

An everyday scene that would have been unthinkable just four months ago under the Islamist militant sect MUJAO.  And certainly not in Gao.  MUJAO anointed the "Sharia Square;"  it's where they whipped people and cut off hands.

Rebuilding Gao

It's in the heart of downtown that bears the scars of a year of conflict, occupation and resistance.
 
Youth leader Ibrahim Maiga says it is where protesters marched against a Tuareg separatist group, the MNLA, on June 26 -- after the group's fighters killed a local teacher.  He says the MNLA, which co-ruled Gao at the time, fired on the march and killed three youths.  "Never.  Never will I be able to walk through here without thinking of that day, those six hours, and what we did here," he said.
 
Looted administrative buildings sit eerily empty.  The courthouse was destroyed.  Offices are closed.  The market is quiet.  Banks are still bricked up.
 
The state governor, General Mamadou Adama Diallo, works out of an empty private home on a couch donated by local residents. "We had to come back for our country.  Our personal safety and comfort don't matter," he explained. "The administration is returning to posts throughout the region and we will work in whatever conditions we find.  It's difficult, but it is what must be done."
 
Citizens hopeful, but cautious

Patriotism may be at an all-time high in Gao, but daily life is far from normal.
 
Jihadists could attack.  A citizen's medical committee continues to run the hospital as it did under occupation.  Residents get about 30 hours of electricity a week, thanks to the Red Cross.  Food prices have climbed since the Algerian border closed in January at the start of the French-led military intervention.
 
"We want Gao to go back to how it was before the problems," said Gao resident, Khadi Diatta. " We want it to develop.  We are hungry and tired."
 
Khadi Diatta is part of a street-cleaning group created under occupation by a regional advisory committee of imams and civil society leaders that mediated between residents and the armed groups.
 
Teacher Kata Diatta Hosseini Maiga, a member of that committee, says the state was gone -- so residents had to pull together.  And they got results. "What the population did on a voluntary basis, we've never seen that before," Maiga noted.
 
That solidarity remains, he says, and they will need it and the state administration to put the city back together again.

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More