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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid