Good Friday at the poolside, Hotel Amitie, Bamako
After delicate negotiations with myself I arrived at the conclusion that the suffering in the north is hardly going to be alleviated by my not going to the pool in Bamako…
So a whole day was spent without news, but one day is now a long time: Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu were taken in three days...
Not only time seems to be changing its speed and characteristics: emotions too are stretched and spinning and unstable like quicksand.
This morning Ann and I were optimistic: we started telling ourselves that perhaps a Touareg state would be fine after all, as long as it was swept clean of terrorist elements, with the help of a friendly and decisive ( as well as well armed) ally in the shape of France or the US. I spent a happy day at the pool side designing my new 15 room mud palace in Djenne in my mind.
Back at Ann’s this evening the news of the International condemnation of the MNLA’ s unilateral declaration of the Touareg state of Azawad took us at first by surprise. Mali’s interests are not totally ignored by the international community it appears!
Then we plunged again in downward spiral when watching France 24 which showed Timbuktu in the hands of the Islamists, black flags fluttering atop their army vehicles as they drove through the streets where African women were seen in Hijab, and where their leader was touting his gun in the air and wowing that they were not stopping, that they were continuing south, and would bring with them Sharia law wherever they went!
A debate followed where it was suddenly made clear how extremely urgent and dangerous this situation is. The MNLA are no longer the main players. Their declaration of independence is irrelevant, just as Sanogo too is of course now more or less irrelevant. The Islamic fundamentalists, extremely well armed and with a thorough knowledge of the terrain are in charge. The African nations of the ECOWAS have declared that they are preparing an army of 2 to 3000 soldiers to intervene, and France has pledged to help materially and logistically. The details are still being debated, and a schedule is not yet fixed. It would probably take several weeks.
This is going to be far too late and far too little! In the words of one of the France 24 debaters:
L’Avenir du Mali ne se joue pas dans 10 semaines, il se joue demain matin! (The future of Mali is not happening in 10 weeks, it is happening tomorrow morning!)
Meanwhile Amede of la Maison Rouge, called me from the airport, where he is waiting for the plane to France. He informed me that he had just had news that Koro, a Dogon town by the frontier of Burkina Faso has been taken by the rebels. This intelligence has turned out to be a mystery so far: Keita's sources in Koro say it is false, while there are other sources that confirm it!
And now, even while writing this message, Ann calls me: Sanogo is making a statement on Malian TV! Indeed, Captain Sanogo has agreed to step down and to hand over power to the Prime Minister in an interim government. This will allow the sanctions to be lifted, and hopefully the promised troops to be deployed north.
What next? Is this enough for today??