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

FIFA Indictments Put Gold Cup Tournament Under Cloud

Experts say US indictments could lead to charges of other world soccer officials, and lead to major shakeup in sport's governance More

Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

Border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared their stories More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows to Fight IS 'Until They Are Killed or We Die'

In wide-ranging interview with VOA Persian service reporter, Fuad Masum describes conflict as new type of fight that will take time to win More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs