Actually I had planned to post some music by Thomas Mapfumo, but I am still trying to retrieve the title of one of the songs. So this will have to wait for a few days.
But it gives me an opportunity to share with you some more countermeasures in the struggle against the imminent oppression of the people of Mali.
It appears to me that matters have been complicated rather than resolved by the French decision to intervene. From a distance, it may seem like a good idea to send in the air force to bomb the sh*t out of those 'damn terrorists'. But will it work in a country the size of Mali? Anyone who has flown over Mali will agree that there are immense areas of 'much-of-the-same'. And attacking towns, villages and/or random groups of humans in the open field won't do much for French public relations, if you ask me. And I think the islamic rebels (and related insurgents1) are not going to respond favourably to any French requests to stick around in one place, - and preferably away from populated areas...
It is not very hard to understand why the French have decided to 'come to the rescue'. As a former colonial power France has over the decades tried to keep some level of influence in its former colonies, with different degrees of success. Even in colonial times Mali was never at the center of French interest, and after independence Mali has done little to 'nurture' the ties. And French efforts to keep in touch have been half-hearted at best. Even before the fall of president Moussa Traoré in 1991 the French appeared to have given up on Mali, and since then others have stepped in, notably Chinese, Arabs and Libyans. These new friends proved to be more valuable and more effective than the French had been over all those seemingly countless years. The Arabs built hotels and a great bridge in the capital Bamako. The Chinese have set up projects to revive Malian agricultural capabilities2. And the Libyans, or at least former president and 'our man' Muammar Gaddafi, they made themselves hugely popular by providing the (satellite) communication facilities that opened up the entire continent and can in a lot of ways be seen as the biggest revolution for ordinary Africans in the last century (if not in history..).
In the meantime too, it has become clear that Mali may have some economic possibilities. During French colonial rule the focus was mainly, if not exclusively on agriculture. The Office du Niger was set up to provide the French textile industry with raw material, - regardless of the effect the growing of cotton would have on the sparse arable soil. Since those days French governments have done little to ascertain the needs of Malians. In fact, subsequent French governments have done their utmost to retain a level of dependency of 'grand frère' France, particularly by the monetary system, while ignoring polite requests to really help out.
Personally I don't believe that altruistic motives play any part in the French attempts to intervene. Geo-political motives: yes. France wanting to restore its waning foothold in the African continent, after French pawns (like Houphouet-Boigny) in other former colonies have disappeared from the scene: yes. But 'coming to the rescue': nahhhh!
Please excuse my digression. I am awaiting reports 'from the frontline', but could not restrain myself any further. I have actually managed to control my urges slightly, as I haven't even started about the very dubious role of (who else but) the US in this issue.
Getting to the music I would like to share with you, you may ask what this music has to do with the present conflict. Well, this music is about the strenght and the resilience of the Malian people, and above of all of the women of Mali. During my visits to Mali I have experienced many many times that while the men talk, and claim to have the solution for all problems, the women are the ones that actually keep the country going. And I am sure that they will continue doing so come what may...
This resilience and this force of character can hardly be more apparent than with this singer, who already featured in an earlier post in this blog. For Ami Diarra not only had to overcome polio herself, but she managed to set her own handicap aside to help others.
This cassette is from the late 1980s or early 1990s, but I have heard that she is still active.
I am almost sure that the ensemble accompanying Ami is the same Ensemble Balemaya from Kayes as in the video, and it may even be that the recordings of the cassette and the video are the same.
1 More details on the conflict on the site of Al Jazeera.
2 More about the Chinese in Mali in this article