News / Africa

From Burkina Faso, Displaced Malians Eye Reconciliation

Malian children return from morning primary school session, which they attend in neighboring village, Sag-Nioniogo refugee camp, Burkina Faso, Oct. 9, 2013. (VOA/Jennifer Lazuta)
Malian children return from morning primary school session, which they attend in neighboring village, Sag-Nioniogo refugee camp, Burkina Faso, Oct. 9, 2013. (VOA/Jennifer Lazuta)
Jennifer Lazuta
As hundreds of thousands of displaced Malians begin returning to their homes in the north, post-conflict ethnic reconciliation remains a key challenge for officials in Bamako.
 
But at the Sag-Nioniogo refugee camp in central Burkina Faso, where an ethnic patchwork of uprooted northern Malians have found ways to get past the tensions and live in harmony, divisions over the question of an independent northern Mali persist.
 
Malian refugee prepares afternoon tea at Sag-Nioniogo camp, Burkina Faso, Oct. 9, 2013. (Jennifer Lazuta for VOA)Malian refugee prepares afternoon tea at Sag-Nioniogo camp, Burkina Faso, Oct. 9, 2013. (Jennifer Lazuta for VOA)
x
Malian refugee prepares afternoon tea at Sag-Nioniogo camp, Burkina Faso, Oct. 9, 2013. (Jennifer Lazuta for VOA)
Malian refugee prepares afternoon tea at Sag-Nioniogo camp, Burkina Faso, Oct. 9, 2013. (Jennifer Lazuta for VOA)
The Tuareg rebellion that began in January 2012 was fueled by strong ethnic and communal undercurrents. After it was hijacked by jihadists drawing from regional Arab and Tuareg communities, as well as members of Peul and Songhoy ethnic groups, hundreds of thousands of civilians from all these communities were forced to flee the violence and rising communal tensions.
 
When 25-year-old Mohammed arrived at Sag-Nioniogo in September 2012, he was expecting to be among fellow Tuaregs.
 
“When I first saw that Songhoy were living in the refugee camp as well, I remembered all the difficult times in Mali," he says, explaining that he thought the recurring conflicts and bad history between the groups would make it impossible to live side-by-side.
 
Amid name-calling, accusations and displays of petty grievance — Tuaregs refusing to buy items such as bread from Songhoy sellers and vice versa — each ethnic groups, says Mohammed, set up shelters in different parts of the camp.
 
For aid agencies that support and research refugee camps, it was nothing new. Last month, for example, Britain-based Oxfam reported that six out of 10 people surveyed in Burkina Faso's two largest Malian refugee camps said they “have a problem with an entire ethnic group.”
 
But for Mohammed, things at the much smaller Sag-Nioniogo seemed to change subtly. While at first he did not associate with the Songhoy, he says, he began making Songhoy friends in the food distribution areas, slowly realizing how the different groups face the same problems.
 
Other Sag-Nioniogo residents agree that tensions began to ease. Beder Mohammed, one of the camp's few Arabs inhabitants, says he has even become hopeful about prospects for broader northern reconciliation.
 
"The groups each came for different reasons, with different problems, but in the camp the only choice was to get along and help one another, while also praying for peace," he said.
 
Although Malian government officials and MNLA Tuareg separatists are expected to initiate peace talks by the end of 2013, the 2012 crisis represents the fourth major Tuareg rebellion since Mali's 1960 claim of independence. The question of greater autonomy or independence for Mali's restive north remains a sensitive one, and many remain divided over exactly what long-term reconciliation would entail.
 
For refugee Bouj-kalin Ag Agrad, prospects for reconciliation remain dim. Talks, like fighting, he says, have only failed.
 
"You must divide the country to have peace, like how the problems were resolved in Sudan," he says.
 
While Tuaregs comprise an 80 percent majority of the Sag-Nioniogo population, they are a minority in Mali's underdeveloped north, where broad-based support for independence remains elusive. Many northerners continue to blame the Tuaregs for the ongoing instability, calling their latest rebellion the one that paved the way for foreign-led Islamists.
 
For refugee Mohammed Niane, although dialogue may quell tensions in the north, development is the key to stabilization.
 
"There is a big difference between the north and the south," he says. "The north needs investment in school, infrastructure, in everything. If there is no development of the north, there is no progress in solving the problem and so it will always come back."
 
Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has so far ruled out any division of the country, saying the solution is development through improved government decentralization.

You May Like

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitcheni
X
September 22, 2014 11:42 AM
With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid