Sunday, August 26, 2012

Songs For Desert Refugees

I have been trying to write about Mali and the present growing humanitarian refugee crisis. It has been a learning process for me and I have been inspired by a very close friend who is personally involved in the relief effort. He does not want me to reveal any of the details of his organizations involvement because of the extremely dangerous situation for the organizations and the refugees themselves. It is superhuman and the toll has already been much too steep.
This was a piece published on August 5, 2012 on the Les forums de blog which gives you a pretty good overview of what is happening:

GENEVA (AP) — A crisis of huge proportions is brewing in Mali that could spread throughout the nine-nation Sahel region of northern Africa and beyond due to insufficient humanitarian aid for millions of people, top U.N. and U.S. officials said Friday.
Mali recently experienced a coup that emboldened rebels to seize the country's north. Islamist and other insurgent rebel factions have since been fighting each other as they try to keep ahold of northern Mali. The violence, and the imposition of harsh Islamic law in some areas, has forced many residents to flee their homes.
The officials warned that widespread hunger, displacement, insecurity, political unrest and other factors in Mali are putting countless lives at risk — and setting the stage for a global headache.
"There is a very serious threat for peace and security, not only for the whole region but, in my opinion, with global implications," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres told reporters at the U.N. in Geneva. "We are witnessing in the Sahel a dramatic humanitarian situation."
Guterres appeared a press conference beside U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Anne Richard, who oversees population, refugees and migration. They had just returned from a trip to visit Malian refugees in Burkina Faso.
Guterres said 260,000 Malian refugees have fled for neighboring Mauritania, Niger and Burkina Faso, which have kept their borders open and shared their food supplies despite the dire hunger crisis they face within their own nations. Some 200,000 people also have been displaced within Mali, facing dire conditions.
The U.N. humanitarian office says 18 million people already face severe hunger and malnutrition in the Sahel region. In Mali, many of those in need are beyond the reach of aid workers, the two officials said.
"The United States is very concerned about the crisis, and we're also concerned that's there not sufficient resources going to it," said Richard, adding the U.S. has contributed $355 million of aid and food to countries in the Sahel, including $34.5 million for refugees.
A group of middle-ranking soldiers toppled Mali's democratically elected president in March. After international pressure, they allowed an interim president to be named in April. But in May, that interim leader, Dioncounda Traore, was beaten up by a group of protesters, and left the country for medical treatment. He returned last week.
The initial coup gave insurgents in Mali an opening. Ethnic Tuareg rebels seeking secession took control of the country's north — an area larger than France — but were driven out in June by extremist Islamists with links to al-Qaida who vowed to introduce an ultra-strict interpretation of Islamic law.
Guterres said the threat goes "far beyond northern Mali" partly because many of the heavily armed fighters there have come from Libya, where they had been in the army and militias that supported the late Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, and others have come from Nigeria, Somalia and Afghanistan.
The crisis in Mali could become conflated with the unrest in Sudan-South Sudan, Somalia and even Yemen, he said.
"So if proper humanitarian assistance is not provided, and if a political solution is not found, the risk of this conflict to go far beyond Mali is, in my opinion, enormous," Guterres said. "And the implications are very serious for the whole region. Let's not forget that many of the states of this region are very fragile."

There is only so much that can even be spoken of on the internet about the crisis. Needless to say, this is not only a humanitarian but a cultural disaster.

The traditional residents of Mali are a number of desert tribes including the Tuaregs who have preserved the ancient heritage of what UNESCO has designated a cultural world heritage site, Timbuktu which is the place where some of the oldest actual libraries still exist in the unique timeless buildings made of mud and straw. The Tuareg among other groups have resisted the AQMI coup and jihad that is seizing control of their country. As a result, they are the victims, being slaughtered and driven from their traditional homeland. International NGO Groups such as Medicins Sans Frontiers are trying to do what they can to assist the refugees, It is extremely dangerous for a non Malian looking person to be involved in the area as being even suspected of being foreign is reason alone to be singled out and killed.
The result is a mass exodus of refugees coming into Mauritania and Burkina Faso and the inevitable human crisis that is occurring from too many people in hastily assembled refugee camps in a part of the world already strained to the max as far as available resources. There are a few groups working to provide assistance and logistics, but due to the difficult nature of working in Africa, the work is inefficient and much is wasted. There are a few small organizations who have to remain relatively anonymous to be directly involved in assistance. Medicins Sans Frontiers is there (Doctors Without Borders in America) and you can link to them through the Haitian Relief Button on the upper right hand corner of this blog page and learn about what they are doing and how to donate through them. You can be assured that any donations made to them will be used as efficiently as possible.
I will write more about this and have a direct link to provide aid in a following posts.

Here is a project already on the ground,. The music of Mali is world renown, Some of the greatest African music comes out of the Desert...and the  English label, Glitterhouse Records released “Songs for Desert Refugees” a benefit compilation of unreleased Tuareg music from across Mali, Niger and Algeria including names such as Tinariwen, Tamikrest, Bombino, Faris and more. It also features sleeve notes from UK journalist (and former Tinariwen manager)Andy Morgan. All proceeds from the album will go to two NGOsTAMOURDRÉ and ETAR who are working directly with refugees from North Eastern Mali. You can order the recording directly here: Tamoudre or you can buy individual songs digitally and listen to samples here at emusic..
Here are a few samples of some of the great Tuareg artists featured on the recording:

Mali’s strife does not seem likely to end soon and while the international community decides what steps to take, regional African coalition ECOWAS is already readying military intervention in the north while experts have warned the country could become the “next Somalia”.  If you love this music and are inspired to buy the recording, I humbly thank you. More information soon, I promise!

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