In truth, neither Ghadafi’s fall nor AQIM nor drugs and insecurity are the prime movers behind this latest revolt. They’re just fresh opportunities and circumstances in a very old struggle. But in truth, all rebellions in northern Mali end up in some form of inter-ethnic war.
A few years ago, on a beautifully calm Saharan evening, I was drinking tea with an old Touareg musician in a garden near Tessalit in the far north east of Mali, a place that has recently been in the news for all the wrong reasons. The musician’s work was gaining popularity throughout Europe and North…
Ladies, gentlemen and fellow Womexicans… On the third of January this year, Ansar Eddine, one of the three armed Salafist groups who ruled over the northern two-thirds of Mali and imposed a brutal form of shari’a law on its people, issued what they called their ‘political platform’. In many ways it’s an extraordinary document, of…
The big story to emerge from the inauguration of Mali’s new president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, which took place in Bamako’s 26 Mars stadium on September 19th, was the arrival of Mohammed VI, King of Morocco, for the celebrations with a delegation of 300 dignitaries in tow. So stark and brash was the nature of this…
An accord between the government of Mali and groups representing the Touareg-led rebellion in the north, primarily the MNLA and HCUA, was signed two days ago in Ougadougou at end of several weeks of intense negotiation. Le Monde has a concise and fairly comprehensive report on this possibly historic event. So is this peace in our time?
My new book MUSIC, CULTURE & CONFLICT IN MALI takes an in-depth look at the crisis that overtook Mali in January 2012 and lead to a ten-month occupation of the northern two-thirds of the country by armed jihadi groups. The book examines the roots of those tumultuous events and their ef- fect on the music and culture of the country. There are chapters on music under occupation in the north, the music scene in Bamako, the destruction of mausoleums in the north, the fate of Mali’s precious manuscripts, Mali’s film and theatre industries and the response to the crisis from writers, poets, journalists, intellectuals and film-makers.
BOOK EXTRACT: In important ways, the scenes of vandalism and destruction that were played out in Timbuktu following the Salafist takeover in April 2012 weren’t new at all. There was something very old about them. Mostly white Arabic or Hassaniya speaking men from the northern deserts were ‘teaching’ the blacks how to worship Allah in the ‘proper’ manner.
BOOK EXTRACT: Life in the early 1990s was convivial. There was music. Women felt free to come and go. Some people smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol. The bonds between those young Touareg, their music and their culture seemed strong and unbreakable. No one quite knows why some senior Touareg figures from the northeast, including Iyad Ag Ghali, began to succumb to the message of Pakistani preachers belonging to Tablighi Jama’at.
BOOK EXTRACT: In Gao, a group of teenagers sat around a ghetto blaster listening to Bob Marley. A Landcruiser pick-up loaded with tooled-up Islamic police came by and seeing the reggae fans, stopped and accosted them. “This music is haram!” – forbidden by Islamic law – said one of the MUJAO men as he yanked the cassette out of the blaster and crushed it under his feet.
Like a massive dose of chemotherapy administered to a patient with advancing cancer, France’s intervention in Mali will serve to halt and stabilise the situation. But negative side effects are inevitable, and a complete cure seems as far away as ever.