The lyrics are old and have long been written in the country’s national slogan: “Un Peuple, Un But, Un Foi” – One People, One Goal, One Faith. Before, this slogan was repeated with a plea for unity in this historically divided country. Today there is something sinister in the cry, a tone that suggests “One Scape Goat” should be added to the slogan.
Although Malians in the south saw their army and political class wither away without a fight against the MNLA rebellion; although they openly acknowledge that their popular President ATT handed over his seat of power out of expediency and thus enabled the coup d’etat and the subsequent division of the country; and although they then all looked on exasperated as the unknown coup leader Captain Sanago, the weak remnants of government and a divided and demoralised military did nothing, and so permitted, the mafia terrorist (AQMI) allies of their former President, with his homemade militia (MUJAO), to take over the north from the secular separatists (MNLA) and threaten sharia law and the making of an Afghanistan of Mali, for the Bamakois there is only one culprit for their nation’s year of charades.
As their country is now gradually being liberated of its foreign jihadists by its colonial master, the people look within for whom to blame.
The answer is clear – it is a people with a separate history, a different tongue, and another colour. It is they who kick started the crisis, the usual suspects without whom none of this would have happened. “They” are the Tamashek, the so called Tuareg, the MNLA, as though these are one and the same. You can tell them by their skin: it is “les teints claires”. The answer is clear.
One thing that has returned to Bamako are international journalists, now interested in Mali with the excitement of war. But on their returns from reporting on liberated Timbuktu and Gao, they say they did not see these clear skinned faces.
That is because they have all left.
For oddly, despite the liberation of the north, the Tuareg are leaving Mali in greater numbers than ever before. Now even the poor who stayed behind to tend the animals when the islamists took over are filling the the refugee camps in Burkina and Mauritania. At the camp in Djibo in Burkina Faso 500 refugees per day are now arriving, more than ever before.
As for the first wave that came back in January when the rebellion began, so for the second wave in April who left when the coup d’etat happened, and so now for the recent surge as the French and Chadian forces disappear into the far reaches of the desert, it is the Malian military that people are fleeing.
“We welcomed the French war” explains Mohammed, a jewelry maker form Timbuktu in exile in Bamako “but we were better off before under the islamists. I am only now moving my father from Timbuktu. The islamists may have destroyed our dreams of independence, they may have imposed their sharia and banned our music and destroyed our way of life, but they didn’t kill us. And now in Bamako I cannot wear my turban. Guy, have you ever seen me without a turban? But now I am truly scared.”
If there are Tuaregs left in Bamako they dress down, they conceal their whereabouts, hide away their turbans and voiles. They hide their lives, conceal their identity, deny their culture and hush their tongues in their own capital city.
Meanwhile the Bamakois rehash the meaningless and incorrect slogan that became their county’s moto – One people, One Goal, One Faith.
As I leave Bamako for Burkina Faso I worry of Nazis and Jews, Serbs and Bosnians, Hutus and Tutsis.
I hope I’m being melodramatic.