News

    Soldiers, Civilians Deal With Fallout of Mali Rebellion

    A Malian soldier looks on as junta leader captain Amadou Sanogo speaks at the Kati military camp near Bamako, April 3, 2012.
    A Malian soldier looks on as junta leader captain Amadou Sanogo speaks at the Kati military camp near Bamako, April 3, 2012.
    Nancy Palus

    Malians and the world have watched with surprise as three major cities in northern Mali fell to rebels in just the past few days.  But a soldier just back from the front lines says the swift advance by Tuareg separatists should be a surprise to no one, given the state of the Malian army.

    The Tuareg Uprising

    • Tuaregs are an ethnically Berber, nomadic people in West Africa's Sahel and Sahara regions.
    • Tuareg fighters have staged multiple uprisings in Mali and Niger for greater autonomy.
    • Current Mali rebellion began in January after Tuareg fighters returned from Libya, where they fought for Moammar Gadhafi.
    • The conflict has driven about 100,000 Malians to neighboring countries, internally displaced more than 90,000.
    • Losses to Tuaregs prompted soldiers' coup in Bamako Thursday March 22.

    Corruption and deception at the highest levels of government and the military left front-line soldiers nearly defenseless, a soldier just back from northern Mali told VOA.  He says he saw combat in several towns, including Ménaka, Tessalit, and most recently Gao, home of the army’s largest northern base, which fell to the Tuareg rebels on Saturday.

    The soldier, who does not want his name used, says that one good thing to come out of the March 22 coup d’état is that the Malian government’s abysmal response to the Tuareg rebellion is coming to light.

    In the weeks leading up to the coup, Malians were increasingly critical of what they saw as a feeble response on the part of President Amadou Toumani Touré.  But some also denounced soldiers, questioning whether their heart was in the fight.

    The soldier said that early on in this rebellion, the Malian people thought that the government gave us the means to fight but that we refused to fight.  Now they understand, he said, that in reality we were never given the means.  We were not afraid of combat, he said.  Now that the people are beginning to understand this even gives us the motivation to go and fight again.

    He said when soldiers detained top-level officials, revelations began to surface about how corruption and conflicts of interest got in the way of the battle.

    He said he saw the recent defection of Colonel Major El Hadj Ag Gamou as a vindication.  He said soldiers warned their superiors several times that Gamou could not be trusted, but he said the warnings were ignored.  Some superiors dismissed them as prejudice against Gamou, a Tuareg.

    Hundreds of soldiers and civilians have arrived in the capital Bamako from Gao in the past two days.

    Diarra Seydou was one of hundreds of people who made the 1,200-kilometer trek.  VOA talked with several people on a bus as it approached Bamako after about 24 hours on the road. "The army didn't have the wherewithal. So when the rebels arrived, soldiers had already given in, for lack of the means to fight," he said.

    This woman, seated on the bus with an infant in her lap, did not want to give her name. Coming to tears, she pleads with coup leader Amadou Sanogo to step aside. "If Sanogo has come to help us, let him quit now so the international community could help us. Let him quit power, in the name of God, in the name of his mother and his father. He should think of the people who are in the north. He should leave the way for the international community help us. What we have gone through, if he had lived through that, or his wife had lived through that, he would step aside," she said.

    The woman was on a bus carrying about 60 people fleeing Gao after it fell to the rebels.  Children were quiet and the men and women looked angry and traumatized.  They said Tuareg rebels did not go after civilians, but people fled because of the constant weapons fire and rampant looting.  People said they cannot stay in a town that has been decimated.

    Riders on the bus worried about how people left behind will cope. Cissé Oumou Touré, a midwife, said "The situation is very, very critical. If transport companies could send more buses to go get these people who are left behind in Gao, that's what we want. These elderly and sick people who are still back there...and there are absolutely no health services, no support for them, nothing."

    Humanitarian groups who have long worked in northern Mali are facing unprecedented problems reaching people in need.  Steven Anderson is spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross for North and West Africa, which has been distributing food and other relief supplies to families displaced by the unrest.  ICRC provided help recently to some 29,000 people in the area of Menaka alone.

    "Unfortunately we’ve had to temporarily suspend most of our operations in the north of Mali.  There are tens of thousands of displaced people who are really in a very serious critical humanitarian situation and they really need urgently to receive assistance," he said.

    To get aid to the people, agencies must work with local authorities.  But who are local authorities in the chaos that is now northern Mali? "The situation is insecure and pretty unclear in terms of who’s who and who is where.  What really needs to be done now is to identify the people that we need to talk to in order to re-establish a dialogue," said Anderson.

    On Monday evening Malians gasped when they heard that the regional bloc ECOWAS was going ahead with harsh economic sanctions. The landlocked country replenishes food supplies and other goods through neighboring countries' ports and cross-border trade.

    The move added to the uncertainty enveloping Mali, a country where no government, no force, no institution appears to be in control.

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.