I just returned to Bamako from the Festival sur le Niger in Segou. Most festivals are removed from reality in the best way possible, but this weekend was particularly incredible. I plan on returning every year.
This is a clip from Salif Keita’s Saturday night performance. The stage is in the Niger River; the crowd dances on the shore. Around the 18 second mark, you will get an idea of why this was such a fun festival.
More thoughts, photos and video to come.
Refugee and Personal Update
The refugee situation has not improved. Close to 50,000 people have now fled to Burkina, Niger and Mauritania. The number of internally displaced is also in the tens of thousands. My Timbuktu family is still in Fassala and the UNHCR is constructing more permanent camps there. The good news is that they may try to return home as early as next week. That said, this is not the case for many others. Timbuktu itself has not seen fighting, but for those in many of the smaller villages and towns in the far north, the battles have occurred on their doorstep.
In a previous post, I wrote about a few ways that you can help. In addition to the three organizations I have already mentioned, tamasheq.net has also just released a benefit compilation that you can check out here.
For those that hear a blip on the news about fighting in Mali, you must realize that the fighting is occurring in the far north and the actual number of casualties and deaths has been small compared to many other conflicts. I am safe. I was also safe in Segou. Of course, for the people that live in the north, the situation is awful. And for those that left southern Mali because they feared they would be associated with the rebellion, many of them are now dealing with difficult conditions as a refugee. As I write this, there are still many families living in the desert, afraid to return to their home and unable to afford transport to a neighboring country. There are many northern residents who don’t support the rebels that are supposedly fighting for them. The situation is particularly terrible for them as they are caught between two fighting sides and they are not a part of either. We can only hope for peaceful resolution.
I am going to be in Cote d’Ivoire in a week or so for restaurant/business things and then back to Bamako before taking a trip elsewhere. Hot season is going to start momentarily. Nothing can really mitigate the heat, but mangoes will be falling from trees all over Mali. They say there are not enough people to eat all the mangoes that arrive during the hot season. I will be trying to change this single handedly. I almost did it last year. In the off chance that there are excess mangoes, I will be using them to start my dried mango export business. You want in?