16 April 2012

News roundup: Mali

For those interested, I just posted a summary to MetaFilter of several current articles on the Mali situation, and I put enough effort into it that I thought I'd post it here as well.

Completely unsurprisingly, the situation in Mali is kind of dominating the news here in Burkina. Here are some of the articles published today for the francophones, and synopses in English for the rest:

Summary of the negotiations this weekend: about eighty Malians participated, representing the elected government, the junta, and civilian leaders. The two topics were a roadmap to power transition and the Tuareg rebellion. As for the former, they will stick to the agreement from April 6th which puts Traoré in power and makes anyone participating in the transitional government ineligible in the next elections, but whether the transition period will be only forty days as originally agreed will depend on the resolution of the rebellion. As to that resolution, all agree it needs to include humanitarian aid as soon as possible. They call for the immediate "restoration of the integrity of the territory" (read here: surrender of the rebels), saying everyone participating should remember their "duty to protect the civilian populations," lay down their arms, and look for "republican" solutions.

Slightly more detail on the structure of the agreement, which is broken out into 17 recommendations focusing on three main points: ending the rebellion (this section uses the exact same language as the above article); transitioning power by recognizing the 6th April agreement, creating a "national unity government," and creating new ministerial departments to focus on humanitarian efforts; and creating some sort of monitoring body, overseen by an international mediator.

This article discusses the wider political impact of the choice of a mediator, mentioning that the representative of the interim Mali government at the weekend talks asked that the Mauritanian president participate in negotiations with the Tuaregs (that's the same guy as in this article (cheers, nangar) last link, where he explicitly says he's open to the establishment of a new country, but adds that he is ready to commit troops to fight the terrorists of AQMI, inviting European intervention as well). The author expresses some doubt that Aziz and Compaoré (the president of Burkina Faso, and current mediator between the junta and constitutional authorities, nominated by ECOWAS) will work well together but notes that Mauritanian involvement may be beneficial given their nearer geographic proximity to the territories being fought over.

Here's a discussion of the humanitarian crisis caused by the Tuareg rebellion, or at least of the difficulty in addressing it. Ansar Dine has announced that they will open corridors to humanitarian aid - as long as said aid is "halal"; that is, from Islamic nations only. They won't accept any aid from Europe or the US. The author speculates that they may be concerned that any corridors they open will become routes for gun-trafficking. He or she then says that Ansar Dine is being hypocritical because they already use Western technology, and that in any case they should focus on accepting any aid that feeds the hungry in their territory if they want any claim to legitimacy. The conclusion of the article is that if they hold to this demand, they are planting the seeds of their own destruction, when hunger overcomes fear.

The Moroccan Minister of Foreign Affairs came to Burkina Saturday to offer the king's support to Compaoré toward ending the Mali conflict. He also offered monetary support for humanitarian aid to the Malian refugees in Burkina.

So, yeah. A lot of interested parties are talking with each other. But so far not with the Tuaregs.

11 April 2012

I attended a management training

The topic of role playing came up. This is what I hoped would happen:

It didn't. So I drew this instead.

08 April 2012


Wow, I really don't update this blog very much these days. Blame Facebook. I've been meaning for the last couple days to write something. I've got a fun idea. I'm going to tell the story of my life in a way that is 100% true and entirely misleading. Kind of like that game Two Truths and a Lie, only no lies. That will have to wait though.

Because this evening a Burkinabe friend stopped by, and he said some things I need to make sure are documented for posterity. He's a young guy who used to be a guard at the Peace Corps transit house. He stops by occasionally to chit chat. A couple of times I've lent him my moto, and he's unreasonably grateful about it. So much so that I get embarrassed when he talks about it, and I don't get embarrassed easily*.

As I said, he stopped by this evening. Lucky he did, otherwise he'd have gotten caught in the rain** on his way home.

My friend started talking to me about his life growing up, a topic that had never really come up before. Turns out his mom had him when she was 16, so they were both kind of raised by HER mom, his grandma. He didn't really have a father figure. (The subtext of this conversation, by the way, goes back to how great I am for letting him borrow my bike. See? EMBARRASING.) Now here's where the story gets weird - when he was talking about not having a dad and what he never got that other kids did, he never ONCE mentioned love, or a helping hand, or pride, or anything like that. Nope! Apparently, what he missed out on (and seemed sincerely to regret missing) was someone to tell him when he was wrong, someone to tell him he was gonna get beat if he didn't straighten up.

That was not the weirdest part of the conversation. It got weirder. He started talking about people being kind to each other, and how you shouldn't be mean because if you are then the people you are mean to will be mean to others; same thing for being good to others. (This is STILL all him expressing gratitude. EM. BAR. RAS. SING.) Ok, I can dig all that. But then he busts out this proverb to express it (it's a Djoula proverb, if anyone's interested): "When the sorcerer eats a baby, he'll forget it as soon as it's time to go look for his next meal. But the baby's father*** won't ever forget."

What a weird conversation.

*Especially when the topic is me, and ESPECIALLY when the topic is how great I am.
**Rain! The third in a week! In April. This is too late for the mango rains, too soon for the real ones. I hope it means the season is very wet, but I'm worried it will be even more unpredictable, which is no good to anyone.
***He said the proverb a couple times, and he used the words "père" and "proprietaire" interchangeably. I can't help but think that word choice is pretty intimately tied to his views on fatherhood as implied by his earlier comments.