Today is the 13th day of the French attacks against the insurgents in the north of Mali and it is estimated to cost 30 million Euro. Not only is this raising the eyebrows of the poor Malian, but they also question how it will be paid back. Many are now thinking regardless the outcome of this war, the north of Mali will be controlled by others rather than Malians themselves.
The CDAO or ECOWAS are still waiting for a ransom 387 million Euros in order to show up in Mali. This makes me wonder if human rights issues and concern for democracy are all secondary to the interests of some African and Western countries. But for now cities like Diabaly near the border with Mauritania, Kona beyond Sevare/Mopti, and Douentza are fully freed. Gao is somewhat in our hands but not confirmed. The fight is climbing up toward Timbuktu and Kidal at this point. Here the current wisdom is that the same being that creates the elephant also creates the small ant, for he knows the survival of both is important.
As for good news, today January 24th 2013 was a big day for me. Earlier in January, I put on hold my travel to the village of Sony Cegni because things were way too dangerous to roam around the country–especially having visitors from Portland with me at the time. But as things have quieted, I decided to deliver our school supplies to Soni Cegni in person, thanks to the help from a gentleman named Bablen Diabate, native of Soni Cegni. He is also a Policeman, who decided that Kofalen’s aid to students in Soni Cegni affected even his own family in the village and took permission from work to escort me there. He said my physical presence is very significant to the village elders. So I called some few members of Kofalen’s Bamako Branch (Mamadou Diakite, Blanki Diarra, Dognoune Diarra and now Bablen the police officer who wants be a new member of Kofalen Bamako). They were all great help for me today. The security was extremely high moving outside the city, but Bablen made sure things ran normally.
When we arrived in Soni Cegni, there were no drummers, hunters, or masked dancers there to welcome us. But the youth association was at its best to welcome us with songs about the importance of education. They also sang a song about hope and Kofalen, because the hope we have given them is now sending the village children to high schools and colleges across Mali. They compared us to the old Dubalen tree in their village that has sheltered people from their great grandfathers’ time to their generation with its shade. When I interviewed them on what they wanted to be in life, many girls wanted to be either doctors or teachers. But almost half, including boys, answered with mixed feelings, because they are really happy with what they are doing in their own village, educating rural Mali about ending female excision, helping preserve the forest with their stove program, child malnutrition and health, and organic gardening. So this last group found it important to continue the youth association in their village, and they would like to grow up and become instructors for the next generation. They said all of these programs are working so well because of their songs and plays that pierce people’s hearts and minds, giving them respect for their messages.
After receiving the money from me, they are traveling to a village that they have been holding off because of a lack of bus fare. The other thing our youth association does is to help farmers in their fields toencourage them, and water gardens for the villagers. I did not have the chance to visit their new garden for organic food. Understandably, they were very disappointed but that is the way it is. The sweetest moment with the youth association was when a young man asked me to turn my camera toward him for a message to Kofalen and when I did so, he said “I first met the Americans here when I was in third grade; now I am in my last year in college and I owe them my life for that. They impressed me because they were the first westerners I ever held hands with and that was the whole world to me. In 6th grade, I realized how far America was for them to come help us. While the problem between universities and the government is being sorted out, I have also come back to help the youth association–just like the Americans.” The youth association thanks Kofalen and its donors for sending $ 500 for them. When one plants the seed of goodness, the fruit is nothing short of sweetness itself.
More will come soon about the responses of the headmaster of the school Fah Diarra and the dougoutigi chief of the town.
Only love From Mali,
Baba Wagué Diakite