News

Malian Group Taps People Power

'Sofas of the Republic' members near kiosk where people from the rebel-occupied north discuss post-attack conditions, Bamako, Mali, April 23, 2012.
'Sofas of the Republic' members near kiosk where people from the rebel-occupied north discuss post-attack conditions, Bamako, Mali, April 23, 2012.
Nancy Palus

An arts-based organization in Mali's capital, Bamako, is raising donations for victims of violence in the north by showcasing witness accounts of the region's rebel takeover.

Formed a day after the March 22 coup d’état, "Sofas of the Republic" - a moniker drawn from the Bamanan term "sofas," soldiers of West African anti-colonialist Samory Touré - advocate citizen action against bad governance and the corruption that has gripped Mali for so many years.

Even though there was a grumbling about systemic national problems and events unfolding in the north, one member of the group says few Malians actually bothered to do anything in response. "The coup d’état gave us all a slap in the face, and we formed this group to ensure that people don't stand by silent ever again."

While many West Africans say the coup shed light on a system of rampant government corruption and prolonged neglect of social services such as health and education, Sofas member Ousmane Dadié Touré says all Malians share blame for the current situation.

"We have all contributed to making the situation worse with our non-reaction," he says. "Even the population has never reacted. We were all sitting there, waiting and looking at things happening, and therefore we are also responsible for the bad governance and all the issues going on in the country."

Touré says Malians must demand a new kind of leadership.

"We don’t need people who are going to come and fight for their own personal interests instead of the interests of the large majority of the population, as it’s supposed to be," he says.

Although Mali's political circumstances differ from those in neighboring Senegal, the Sofas share a key similarity with Dakar's trailblazing, hip-hop-fueled Y’En A Marre ("Fed Up") movement, in that they have no political attachments.

"We are non-political - we don’t belong to any political party in the country," says Touré. "It’s just a group of conscious people who got together, who are trying to see what role they can play in saving Mali."

For Sofas member Mariam Doumbia, that role is to encourage women watching from the sidelines to get involved.

"We are not Malian just by virtue of what’s stamped on our national identity card," says Doumbia. "It’s by showing up and committing ourselves when Mali needs us - committing our time, talents and other resources to helping the country."

Doumbia joined members of the group to collecting funds for communities in the north, where rampant looting took place after Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants seized control several weeks ago.

In kiosks in the center of Bamako, people from occupied regions share stories and show photos of the damage, all as part of efforts to generate donations.

Dicko Mohamed, a native of Timbuktu, one of the regions currently held by rebels, shows photos of a looted bank, school and hospital, where documents are scattered everywhere.

"They are trying to [destroy] all the things that show our identity," he says, presenting the images on a laptop. "Everything that binds Mali and the north."

Although circumstances in Timbuktu remain difficult for his relatives, he says, the Tuaregs won't force them out.

"They will stay, even if they must die," he says.

Sofas members call it unthinkable that neither Mali's political leadership nor members of the military junta will come to the aid of northerners facing such dire conditions.

It’s another case in which citizens must not sit silently by, they say.

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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs