A Bamako Blog of This and That...
There is no longer any electricity in Djenne during the day, Al Hadj, the work room manager at the Djenne Manuscript Library informed me last night.
Nevertheless, my two Djenne teams are not deterred by such details and are working between 6pm and midnight on both fronts: at the manuscript library the digitization process is continuing and every night about 200 pages of precious ancient Arabic manuscripts are still being photographed.
As far as MaliMali goes Barry my tailor has recruited reinforcements to finish the 150 bogolan make up bags for our friend and client Lela,the dynamic beauty product entrepreneur from South Carolina who is a frequent commentator on this blog in recent days.
Keita has returned to Segou. I will see him again before leaving, Insh'allah..
When will I leave? I don’t know. I am not ready to leave.
In Bamako all is well on the surface at least. Today as I am writing this there is even electricity at 10. 30 am while normally the current is turned off between 8am and 6pm to economise and conserve fuel. But everyone senses that this veneer of normality is thin and fragile as an egg shell. What will happen? When will it happen? Everyone is waiting for something as yet unknown to manifest itself. It is to the credit of the ordinary Malian citizens, this peaceloving and gentle people, that Bamako is calm, for it is now in effect a virtually lawless city.
I am staying with my Belgian friend Ann who has a travel agency: Tounga Tours, and a guest house Auberge Tounga. The second of these enterprises has run well in the last couple of weeks with toubab refugees from the aid agencies in the provinces now leaving the country and spending a couple of days in Bamako before catching their flights.
The first of these enterprises, Tounga Tours is of course now virtually non existent. Therefore imagine our surprise and our giggles when Ann received a confirmation that a lone American tourist will be arriving in Bamako on Monday for the Mali part of his whistle stop tour of West Africa as if nothing was happening here! He is travelling to more or less all the West African countries in 20 days. If this is Monday it must be Bamako….?
Ann has three small children. She is also not sure of what to do. She also does not want to leave. We are making provisional plans of making for the Guinean border (about three hours drive) in case of emergency and Ann is keeping the petrol tank filled up to be able to leave if necessary. Guinea is not part of the Cedeao, the ECOWAS countries who have closed the borders as part of the embargo.
We had drinks with Amede of La Maison Rouge, Mopti at a lively and well-frequented Amandine’s last night. He adheres to a conspiracy theory which I have found on the internet too. According to this theory Sanogo with his coup of 22 March is just a puppet in a Machiavellian scheme masterminded by the French to first of all wrest control of Mali from ATT, who Sarkozy could not abide, and later, by isolating Mali and bringing the country to its knees, to prepare the way for the French to be able to arrive as the liberators and restore order again on their terms, which would include installing their darlings the MNLA in a Touareg homeland, whilst being able to manipulate, by sham ‘democratic elections’ the fate of the rest of Mali. Of course, should this theory be true, it has now backfired at least partly, since a Sahel State controlled by Ansar Dine or AQIM was not included in this masterplan.
Mali is rife with conspiracy theories and rumours.
The remaining Malian Army, reinforcements from Sikasso and Kayes has supposedly arrived to defend Sevare and Mopti where now no foreigners remain, as far as I know. Their defense of Mopti would now no longer be against the MNLA who have announced a ceasefire, but against the Ansar Dine and their fundamentalist allies whose appetite for Malian territory has not yet been satisfied.
News is reaching people by telephone from family members in the north, or from soldiers in hiding in Gao or Timbuktu. Fortunately virtually everyone, even simple infantry soldiers now have mobile phones. Boubakar, a friend of Keita’s who drove us to Bamako the day before yesterday, has a brother who was the quartermaster of the Malian Army in Gao. How can he now leave? Even if he puts on civilian clothing, he will be stopped and have to show his identity card if he wants to leave. If he cannot show one he will be taken prisoner or shot. Boubakar and his family is trying to get a civilian identity card to him to get him out of there.
Organisations and associations springing up every day who want to talk and want to solve the current impasse.
The Bamako based Malian newspaper the Independent wrote this morning:
Mali occupied: What to say? What to do?
The first observation is that those who do not speak Tamachek* or Arabic have now become strangers on the soil of the SONI and the ASKIA. This is nothing surprising, this fact is embedded in the logic of the racist and segregationist movements that are the MNLA and the ANSARDIN, the members of which still condone and practise slavery.
*The Touareg language.
A deep and possibly insurmountable gulf exists between the peoples of the North and South. The perception is that the Touaregs believe themselves to be the masters of the black population of the South.
The 'soil of the Askia', however, is the soil of Gao. It is the soil of the Saurai (Songhai) a proud warrior race, which is also the predominant race in Djenne. Gao will not sit happily in a new Touareg state, although France 24 have now presumed to include it in their new map of Mali!
The Sleepting Camelis a popular watering hole and guest house particularly for English speaking travellers and Bamako NGO staff. It is just around the corner from Ann's and I have strolled over for some news. Matt the Australian owner is preparing his departure. There are a few toubabs at the tables drinking beer, studying maps and making evacuation plans. 'The border to Guinea is closed', Matt informs me. But nevertheless it is the opinion of the others that the closure of the borders does not include those that want to leave Mali, but rather the import of goods into the country. Nevertheless, it might be an idea to get a visa now, rather than on the border. A visa for where? Burkina or Guinea? Let's see...