Saturday, March 24, 2012


It’s Day Four since we’ve been in “hibernation” due to the coup d’état in Mali. This has provided a lot of time for reflection, but also for boredom, so it’s a good opportunity to add to my blog for the first time in six months!

In brief, I was headed to Bamako on Wednesday with the team from Christ for Humanity (Ronda Tyson, Vicki Ray, DeMarco Taylor), after a productive ten days in Kayes, and anticipating three days of training ESL teachers in Bamako. Arriving in Kati, about 15km/9m (one hour) from the capital, the bus offloaded us, saying there was a “little problem.” We assumed this was a mechanical issue, but soon learned that there was a strike or a demonstration on the road between us and Bamako. We hoped to get moving again in a few hours, but instead the bus turned around and headed into the bush for protection in case demonstrators resorted to property destruction. By then, we were the only passengers left on the bus, and were in contact with the US Embassy. We learned that the “demonstration” was actually a failed coup attempt. The Embassy advised us to stay in Kati and found us an American lady living here with her son who was willing to take us in.

In the morning, the mutinous soldiers successfully seized the presidential palace and announced on national television at 4.30am the success of their putsch. The reason for the coup is the dissatisfaction of certain factions of the army with the conduct of the war against the Tuareg rebellion in the north of Mali. Tuareg mercenaries returned from the conflict in Libya with state-of-the-art weapons and resumed their decades-long, on-and-off insurgency. Malian troops are undersupplied with arms and even such basics as food, and their weaponry is definitely inferior to that of the insurgents. [To familiarize yourself with the history of the Tuareg conflict, check out the second hyperlink below.]

Our hostess is a poli-sci major, and her Malian friends come and go, so we spend a lot of time discussing “the situation.” Some obvious questions present themselves:

Malian presidential elections are scheduled in one month. Why overthrow the government when the “end” of the current administration is in sight? One Malian man said, “A month is a long time when you are a soldier lacking ammunition and hungry.” Point taken, but one goal of the new ruling committee is to restore democracy. Exactly how does canceling upcoming elections restore democracy?

Where are the generals? The highest ranking officer involved in the coup is a captain, and the president of the Democratic Committee is only 39 years old. Young soldiers are literally running wild in the streets, confiscating vehicles, shooting rifles in the air, looting shops, and assaulting women. No wonder people perceive that their new leaders are not in control. Speculation is that the older soldiers are loyal to the president, or that they have been arrested.
Unintended consequences include giving an advantage to the rebels in the north, who are making a move southward to take advantage of the instability. Furthermore, the north and east are experiencing the worst famine in over a decade, and for the time being international aid has been cut off.

For these and many other reasons we are greatly concerned for the future of our adopted homeland.
Please click on the third link below, which is the blog I wish I had written!
1. My five minutes of fame (I am quoted in this article):
2. An explanation of the roots of the Tuareg conflict (written by a journalist we know who attended Dakar Academy):
3. An excellent early analysis of the situation:

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