Message about Mali – February 4, 2013

Dear people,

I am back in Portland, and have brought news along with me.  Reports have been a bit hopeful to the mind of Malian people, with the liberation of a couple major cities in the North—Gao and Timbuktu. The report from Ko-Falen Mali today (2/4/2013) is that there has been heavy bombardment in Kidal against the MNLA by the troops from Mali, Nigeria and France. That city too is likely to be fully in the hand of Malian soldiers soon. But this soothing news to my mind is not the end of everything.  In fact, I think this war is going to go on for quite some time.  At least from what I gather from everyday discussions from people around me.  The fact is that some of the insurgents that fled from those cities to neighboring villages and countries remain unidentifiable among people that look very much alike.  Not only does this make things unstable, but it brings much suspicion and prevents people speaking from their heart about their feelings.  The other question is whether these people may be able to reunite again and start things over.  An elder told me this version of how things are in Mali at this moment:

A hardworking farmer worked in his millet field daily from early dawn up until the middle of the afternoon.  He returned home exhausted to take a warm bath and to spend the remainder of the afternoon resting.  But when his field of millet became pregnant with grain, he came home one afternoon, and looked at his young son.  “Father, what is it?”  The farmer replied, “My son, I feel something strange is happening in nature.  I feel that my millet stalks are being threatened.  I hear the sound of locust far away, and I fear that my hard work will go to waste.”  The young son replied, “Father, I can watch over the millet in the afternoon while you rest.”  The first day, armed with his slingshot, the seven-year-old went to the fields and right away noticed a large grasshopper flying pdddddddddddddddddddd and landing on a large millet stalk.  The little boy grabbed onto the millet stalk and shook it violently, causing the grasshopper to fly out of the field.  The boy took chase, running after the grasshopper. As it landed, the boy pounced, trying to capture it. Pdddddddddddd the grasshopper flew off once more.  Again, it landed, and again the boy pounced, only to watch the grasshopper fly off once more.  Eventually, the boy tired, and took note of where he was, far from his father’s field.  He turned to see the grasshopper fly once more, disappearing into the landscape.  As he trudged back to the millet field, he was relieved that he had driven the grasshopper from his father’s field.  But the question remained in his mind:  Was the grasshopper gone for good, or would he simply gather with others of his kind to return?  And are there others already hiding in the field like the one he has seen?  Now it is these questions in the little boy’s mind that drives him to watch over his father’s field day in and day out.

This present day in Mali is like this tale.  We are not sure if the end of this war is truly the end.

Baba Wagué Diakité


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