Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Present Situation In Mali...and how you can help!

(On the side of this blog, there is a PayPal button that lets you donate a few dollars to GCAM, Groupe Coordination Aude Mali. GCAM is a little but long time dedicated NGO group that has been working for almost 30 years with a community of Touareg tribal people in the Saharan Desert of Mali. GCAM has promoted Touareg culture and art to help this nobel ancient group keep their traditional way of life. Today, that way of life seems to be a relic of a past. The focus today is trying to help these people survive chaos and upheaval and to be able to even dream of a future....this is a message from someone who has devoted her life to this cause. Every centime helps.)
The situation in Mali might look good from the outside but is not. It is really becoming a much bigger disaster. Nature is not helping with a wind hotter than the sun!

For hundreds of years Mid-Sahara was Touareg Land. The Touareg were nomads and travelled the Sahara trading goods and black slaves. Buyers and sellers were the arabs in the same area.You will find two main old slave tracks in that area as big as Europe, one trough Tombouctou (Mali) and one trough Agadez (Niger). The French came and colonized most of the area between 1850 - 1900 and divided it in different “departements”. They forbade slavery and used the Touareg as guides in the desert. After the French left the area was divided in pieces,it is now Algeria, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Lybia. The land was handed over by new local governments who sent their armies immediately to the borders. This created the situation where the Touareg who had travelled freely in that area couldn't move across the borders ofd their traditional world any more. This created friction between authorities and the local population and in 1964, the first rebellion occurred in the Kidal area in Mali (two years after independence of Mali). This was suppressed with brutal force. Then in 1972-74 a first big draught killed many Touareg and their animals. Then in 1982-85 a second draught was even worse, did the rest. Touareg had to settle down near towns,which made it even easier to control them. As the whole area was practically unsupported with aid and development in 1990 when the confrontation with authorities escalated, especially for the young Touareg with no future in sight. In Niger and Mali one confrontation after the another took place and many people fled to Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Lybia and Algeria. Finally, in 1996 it seemed peaceful enough for many people to  to return home but in 2007 it begins again until 2009. In january 2012 a rebellion starts when many Touaregs returned to Mali, fleeing Lybia after Ghadafi's fall. Many were Touareg mercenaries who fought for Ghadafi and had loads of weapons. The Touareg group, MNLA and the arab group Ansar Dine join together to take over Azawad. The latter group is connected to other islamic groups like AQMI and MUJAO who want to install islamic law. They procalimed the independence of Azawad (northern Mali) and take over Kidal, Timbuktu and Gao. After that AQMI and MUJAO kicked out the MNLA and instituted their version of sharia law. They received support from Al Qaida who recruited fighters from across Asia and Africa ...Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, Senegal etc., they are the salafists or jihadists. These group try to seize  Bamako, the capitol,  until Francois Hollande, the French president, entered the conflict. After heavily bombing France took over the whole area, but the conflict still exists. The islamists withdraw to Lybia. But, now it's Touareg groups fighting other Touareg groups or arab groups or arab militias who unite with the Malian army to chase other Touareg. And in between all this, French soldiers try to keep those parties separated. In other words, it's a big mess, utter chaos, a humanitarian disaster and AQMI is just waiting to seize the opportunity to come back again. And from the south and south-west old hate changes in revenge. Those populations don't want the Touareg back again. But what does it mean for these Touareg populations? There are hundreds of thousands. Most are now in refugee camps in Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Niger and Algeria. They only want to go home but they can't.

For us, Groupe Coordination Aude Mali, what does that mean? When in 2012 the rebellion started we had two projects with schools, one near Timbuktu and one in Boughessa (Kidal region). Both with at least four classes. They do not exist anymore. We arranged transport for about 30 families connected to the project near Timbuktu to get to Burkina Faso refugee camp Djibo. Two families had to be transported to Mauretania refugee camp M'Bera for savety reasons. All those people and thousends of others just want to go home again. Then, because these people are nomads, a few boys stayed in the desert with their cattle, of all those families! Just to survive and hoping things are getting better and to see their families back again. These boys take great risks because they are chased by all sort of enemies because they are touareg. Fortunately they know the desert better than anyone else but at this very moment they have to fight against nature as well. One of them says: “the wind is hotter than the sun!” The gras dries out within a few days, their animals (mostly goats) die and they cry for help. We send food for these boys and food for their animals. Motorised transport is blocked all over the area so with a few camals transport is done. We hope they succeed …..

Our organisation is just a small one and we really need financial support. We would thank those that donated already to us, Groupe Coordination Aude Mali, for getting us through the hell in Mali. We appreciate any more donation, please check out the PayPal donation knob. Thank you so much
(My note: This is an ongoing humanitarian and cultural disaster. The political and social problems are being made worse by the ongoing drought and incredible heat this part of Africa is experiencing now. Your donations are going to be used as efficiently as possible to provide the basic means of survival to the hundreds of thousands of refugees in the camps in Mauritania and Burkina Faso. We want to help these proud people re establish their lives and culture.,Please give something with the PayPal button!)

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