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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid