Sunday, March 13, 2011


I was surprised by the heat wave that hit me as I stepped off the plane at the Bamako airport because the past couple weeks have been windy and cool in Dakar.  The sky was white and I rarely saw blue above me in the six days we were in Mali.  As we drove through the city to our hotel I was struck by the number of people riding scooters and motorcycles.  Dakar has some, but there were swarms of scooters and they even had their own lanes in traffic.  Everybody- men, women, and even some entire families on the same bike was zipping around on the little scooters and it seemed that the other motorists took care to avoid them.  The only accident I saw in Bamako was scooter against scooter where one was crushed on the road and the other was flung into a ditch 20 yards away.  It must have been a recent accident because people were clustered near the bike in the ditch.  Another thing that stood out was the number of traffic lights in operation and that people actually respected them and waited for their turn to go.
Many riders wore facemasks for the pollution/sand

Muammar Khadafi is still popular in Mali as he as been a major donor and has nearly completed the new government office complex (named after himself).
Khadafi Center

Upon arrival I contacted the US Embassy to find out about the security situation in the north of Mali and was advised not to go to Dogon country as I had originally planned.  The following day the US Embassy issued a Warden Message ( warning:
"the Embassy has credible information of a possible attack in the immediate future against the U.S. Embassy in Bamako and U.S.-related interests to include the American International School of Bamako (AISB).  It also has credible information of a possible kidnapping plot targeting Americans and other Westerners in Bamako."

 So I changed my plans to go south instead of north to Dogon or Timbuktu.  I recently attended a conference where retired Canadian Ambassador Fowler spoke about his capture and captivity in the Sahel by AQIM and I did not want to follow in his footsteps.  I can always come back in the future and see the sights when things calm down.
Sunrise over the Niger River in Bamako

Bamako also stands out for its democratically elected government and like many of its neighbors is preparing for upcoming elections in 2012.  Mali has seen the peaceful transfer of power from the military transitional government in 1992 (following a coup in 1991) to a democratically elected president and to another in 2002.  The current president has promised to not run for a third 5-year term in 2012 clearing the way for a third democratically elected administration.  Mali's neighbors are also in election cycles with Liberia holding elections in October 2011 (Pres Sirleaf-Johnson had promised to serve only one term but is running again as she couldnt see any other viable candidates) and in Senegal Pres Wade is running for a 3rd 5-year term in 2012.  Mali is also being affected by refugees from neighboring Cote d'Ivoire where elections have failed to produce a functional government and is falling into a civil war.  Algeria and Mauritania are also experiencing ongoing demonstrations.  It will be interesting to see how the region develops with its many conflicts.

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful picture of the sunset! Too bad about Timbuktu. Maybe next time :)