News / Africa

Malians Fear Results of Government Inaction in North

Demonstrators protest Islamist takeover of northern Mali (July 2012 photo)Demonstrators protest Islamist takeover of northern Mali (July 2012 photo)
x
Demonstrators protest Islamist takeover of northern Mali (July 2012 photo)
Demonstrators protest Islamist takeover of northern Mali (July 2012 photo)
Nancy Palus
DAKAR — Residents of Gao, in northern Mali, are watching the next moves by the al-Qaida-linked group controlling the region, after a fresh clash over the self-proclaimed jihadist group's bid to enforce strict Islamic law.  It has been more than four months since armed groups chased the Malian army and government out of the north, and people from Gao say the longer the state fails to intervene, the more dangerous and irrevocable the situation becomes.

The group Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO, had planned to cut off the hand of an alleged thief in a public square in the city of Gao on Sunday.  MUJAO has controlled Gao since it pushed out Tuareg separatist rebels in late June.
 
Hours before the planned amputation, local men and women gathered in the square to protest the act, singing the national anthem, some wielding stones and clubs.
 
They were singing the Malian national anthem, but Gao residents say they increasingly feel as if they have no nation.
 
And that is dangerous, Malians from the north say.  They say despite a clear determination by Gao residents to resist MUJAO control, over time the jihadist group - which residents say has been quite shrewd in seeking to gain favor with the population - will succeed in recruiting more local youth.  
 
The MUJAO head of police, who beat up a local journalist for broadcasting statements about Sunday’s protest, is a son of Gao.  Before joining the jihadist group he sold animal hides, according to people from the town.
 
With time, and absent any intervention by the state, some Gao youths are increasingly inclined to join MUJAO, says this resident of Gao who did not want his name used.
 
He says it’s true - people in Gao are determined to fight MUJAO or any other armed group that would occupy the north.  But the government must return to the north and soon, he says, to prevent more youths from being tempted to become armed mercenaries for any cause, just for easy money.
 
On Sunday, as on earlier occasions when the population rose up, MUJAO backed off its bid to enforce its strict interpretation of Sharia.  This is part of the group's strategy, said one Gao native, who said MUJAO leader Abdel Hakim is proceeding “delicately but effectively."
 
Mahamadou Diouara is a native of northern Mali now living in the capital, Bamako.  He leads one of many self-defense groups in Mali who say they are preparing to fight to take back the north.  Back in April Diouara and some colleagues were warning that Islamic groups were recruiting northern youths.  He says the longer the status quo continues, the firmer the hold the Islamic groups will have.
 
He says when you’ve got Islamic extremists very powerful at manipulating youth, who are already in a fragile situation, it’s extremely dangerous to simply let that continue.  Because eventually they’re going to pit brother against brother in Gao - that’s what we must prevent, he says.
 
Diouara said it will take force, not negotiations, to re-establish the Malian state in the north.
 
The regional bloc ECOWAS is waiting for Mali’s interim government to formally request United Nations approval for an ECOWAS military intervention.  ECOWAS mediator Djibril Bassole traveled to Gao Tuesday to try and speak with representatives of MUJAO and other jihadist groups.  
 
Mali government spokesperson Hamadoun Touré would not say whether the recent events in Gao would accelerate military action.
 
He says the latest demonstrations against MUJAO show the people’s attachment to Mali as a secular state and their rejection of Sharia, and the government is proud of that.  He says the government wants to ensure the people of Gao that everything is being done at the national, regional and international level to end their suffering as soon as possible.

You May Like

Video Westgate Mall Attack Survivors Confront Painful Memories

On anniversary of terror attack, survivors discuss how they have coped with trauma they experienced that day More

Iraqi Kurdish Leader: Protect Syrian City

Islamic State fighters are besieging Kobani, also known as Ayn al-Arab, after seizing at least 21 surrounding villages in a major assault against city on Syria's northern border with Turkey More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calaisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 19, 2014 5:04 PM
The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video CERN Accelerator Back in Business

The long upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider is over. The scientific instrument responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson -- the so-called "God particle" -- is being brought up to speed in time for this month's 60th anniversary of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French acronym CERN. Physicists hope the accelerator will help them uncover more secrets about the origins of the universe. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid