Wrote a post for the BAM blog this week.
I know that I owe the universe a transitional post. I have moved to New York, and Mali is something that I have had to put on the back burner for now. I am still working on cross-cultural performance initiatives, but NYC is no Bamako. I want to write about this transition, but it is taking some time. I will.
First, though, I have to post something else.
Recently, I received some bad news that will greatly affect a few people in Mali who made a huge effort to support me.
They are 10, 7, and 3 years old, respectively. And I can say without hesitancy that they were my closest friends in Bamako. You may remember them from posts like this, this, and this.
Batouma, their mother, died in childbirth with her fourth a few weeks ago. She was 25 years old - just a few months older than me. We had spent many days together selling popcorn and gossiping about life. Noone knows what happened - she went to the hospital healthy and didn’t come back. The community is shocked and devastated. Since their father stays on the other side of town during the week for work, it was usually just the girls and Batouma. They were an empowering group of women - I use that word regardless of their ages - who held each other up. I had felt honored to be let into such a tight-knit family.
Mama Batou & Nene Us & Friends
In Batouma’s absence, the girls - Batou, Mama, and Néné - are staying with extended family and support is spread thin. They are smart, bright, hilarious girls who were leaders in our little community, and I am terrified that the first cost cut will be school.
“… Any time you wear your hair down, actually, you look like a witch.”
Old Vermonter in a Maple Sugaring Shack: So where ye from?
Old Vermonter: Ye from Bridgewa’er?
Djibi: ? I no understand.
Sophie: Sorry, he doesn’t speak much English. What were you saying?
Old Vermonter: I uz tryin’ ta ask im where he uz from cuz he sure as heck ain’t local!
After much instability in northern Mali over the past few months due to efforts by the MNLA to gain independence for the “Azawad” territory (most of the Northern region) following a huge boost in arms as fallout from the Ghadafi rebellion, the military has now revolted against the government in a coup d’état that began yesterday with the takeover of the Presidential Palace and the country’s radio and single television station, and was confirmed this morning in an announcement from the military that suspended the Constitution “until the institution of a new order.”
This is the country’s second coup d’état in 25 years. In 1990, the military took control of General Moussa Traoré’s dictatorship in an effort led by current (at least, as of yesterday) president Amadou Toumani Touré (ATT), who is now himself being ousted, to institute a democracy. ATT was due to end his term with elections on April 29 - a month was clearly too long to wait in the view of the military factions who rebelled, led by a young Captain Amadou Sanogo.
There has been growing frustration against ATT and the government during the MNLA’s growing violence, especially by military families and friends who are frustrated by a lack of resources and arms for soldiers facing the rebels. There had been rumors that ATT was cooperating with the MNLA and purposefully limiting the military’s offense and defense as a result - though these rumors were never confirmed, nor do they necessarily hold weight in a region where suspicions abound easily around governments and people in power. Regardless, following talks “that went badly” yesterday with the Minister of Defense in Kati, a military camp 13km outside Bamako, the military revolted.
The mutineers are calling themselves the “National Committee for the Return of Democracy and the Restoration of the State,” and claim to intend to move forward with elections to restore democracy. We will see.
It is still unclear how much support there actually is for the coup, and almost all foreign nations and organizations are condemning it in favor or more peaceful methods.
Our sources in Bamako report lots of sounds of gunfire, as well as pillaging of stores, cars, wealthy neighborhoods, petrol, and more, but everyone is safe. We are currently most worried about one of the Coulibaly women whose husband was recently named Minister - in the 1990 coup, the ministers’ houses were all pillaged and destroyed.
Djibi is due to return to Bamako in one month - we are praying things will return to safety. For now, we are glued to social media, which is an incredible resource in times like these.
My host mother Nafi (Ya) and her co-wife Ami were due to leave the house today for the first time in four months, as is custom in the traditional grieving period for their late husband, Abdoulaye. The military has, however, imposed a curfew and told people to stay in their homes.
***PLEASE NOTE: I AM NOT A JOURNALIST . Reports coming from Africa (among other places) can be messy, unclear, and contain holes. Most of us, even those in Bamako, are still waiting to understand the real goings-on, and news is changing by the minute. Take nothing I said here as absolute fact, it is my understanding of the situation based on news sources and my own connections in Mali.
Here are a few of the better articles & sources I’ve found so far:
The coup announcement video with English translation from the New York Times: