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After Mali's military coup

Video: eyewitness account

Andrew Hogg, Christian Aid's head of media, has recently returned from Mali - one of the worst affected countries.

Cereal shortages have been compounded by conflict in the north, which has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and into areas already desperately short of affordable food.

Andrew gives an eyewitness account of the desperate situation families and communities are facing:

Eyewitness account: the impact of the coup

Christian Aid's Mali country manager expresses his dismay at the impact of the military coup on local people. By Yacouba Kone

The security situation in Mali is very volatile, and we have taken all necessary measures aimed at securing Christian Aid staff, partners and properties. 

All expatriate staff have been evacuated to Burkina Faso with their families, and local staff are staying in Bamako with their families. However, it is very sad to see how all of our past efforts aimed at turning hope into action in Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world, are now in jeopardy. 

On 22 March, a junta of young soldiers and army officers overthrew the regime of President Toure, one of the most highly-respected among all African leaders.

The coup created shock throughout the world, because new elections were planned for 29 April, and the president was himself ready to leave after the elections. The coup was followed by condemnations from regional and international communities, and even from China. 

However, in Mali itself, nobody was surprised by the coup. A distinct lack of strong leadership by ex-rulers of the country to fight the liberation movement of Azawad, the various Islamic factions, and other terrorists groups in the north, has been a source of great concern among the population for some time.

The internet photographs of atrocities committed by the rebels on soldiers have severely demoralised both the population and soldiers.

Civil society happy to see end of Toure's regime

The system put in place by President Toure and his allies had long stifled the opponents of the regime, and no contradictory view was allowed in parliament.

Corruption and impunity benefitting the regime and her allies have exacerbated discontent among the poorest component of the population, especially the youth. 

Despite the cautious attitude of the population in principle regarding any change of regime through a coup d’état, many civil society organisations were happy to see the end of the ‘democratic corrupt regime’. 

Formerly praised for the quality of its democracy and the good governance by the international community, Toure's regime collapsed so easily following just one day of military mutiny. 

Sanctions will 'hit most vulnerable'

After three weeks of hardship and fearing for their lives on a daily basis, the plight of the population continues to deteriorate. The lack of access to the north for relief and development agencies has worsened the already fragile economic and humanitarian conditions faced by the population.

The ongoing insecurity and conflict means all humanitarian efforts undertaken by NGOs and UN agencies have now ceased. 

The situation is becoming desperate due to frequent power cuts and the scarcity of portable, clean water.

In many districts of Bamako and other towns, people are now forced to drink water from the river Niger, which is highly polluted. This will lead to water-borne diseases, primarily affecting young children and the elderly.

The prices of cereals and other foodstuff are also increasing sharply, and most households find it difficult to find just one small meal for their children. In the regions under the control of the rebels and Islamists, the situation is alarming. 

Christian Aid in Mali 

What is happened in Mali is a pertinent case study for understanding the limits of the current democratisation process in Africa, and its failure to bringing about social justice and economic prosperity, especially for those who are already marginalised.

Mali is a country where land grabbing is widespread, affecting the livelihoods of 75% of the population. Desperate youths have no choice but to migrate.  

Over the past three decades, Christian Aid gave hope to so many households and citizens, in northern, central and southern Mali through local partners representative of their communities, regardless of their ethnic origin and religious beliefs.

Our brand has been associated with good quality programme work, diversity in partnership, and advocacy on issues of interest to the poor. In the current situation, we need more strategic thinking about the sustainability of our impact in fragile states, where the local democracy doesn’t work for the poor. 

The expansion of religious extremism in this part of Africa is a real threat to our future work in Africa as a whole. The control of northern Mali by AQMI and its allies is a threat to Christian Aid values.

Over the past few years, we have very worked hard with our partners to change the status quo and some verifiable progress has been achieved. The citizens in our areas of operation, especially those in Mopti, are not clear about what the politicians are planning, but they expect a lot from the solidarity and prayers of the citizens in the UK and Ireland.

I have visited many Christian Aid area offices and spoken to supporters in churches, and I was impressed by the commitment of staff and supporters in this part of the UK to address the root causes of poverty in Africa. I think that they have the right to know what is really happening here. 

They have the power to influence the UK government, one of the most powerful members of the EU and UN security council, to support pro-poor changes in the Sahel.

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 About the author

Yacouba Kone

Yacouba Kone is Christian Aid's Mali country manager