Friday, 18 January 2013

Musicians in Mali take a stand against terror and violence

Al-Qaeda linked militants enforcing strict forms of Sharia law, now occupy the entire north of Mali around Timbuktu. The militants have destroyed historic buildings and banned all music– except the Koranic verse. Many musicians have had to flee their homes. But the artists are fighting back in their own way as Tamasin Ford reports.

To listen to this report, please click on this link to DW's website.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Solar-powered lamp-post provides ray of light for Mali

Momodou Keita, town chief of Sanogola, a small village 300km north of Bamako, Mali's capital, stands proudly beside the community's solar-powered lamp-post – a shiny, blue, enamel-coated construction of welded bicycle parts and water pipes. "Ten villages now want these lamps," he announces with pride from inside his traditional Malian mud-walled compound. "Now we have electricity and it helps us so much," he says.

Solar technology is spreading throughout countries across Africa and it is getting cheaper and more efficient. The searing rays of sunlight coupled with the lack of electricity grids on the continent make this renewable form of energy a no-brainer. But what makes Foroba Yelen, or Collective Light – the name given to the lamp-posts by the women of the area – so different is that it was designed specifically for the Malian communities who would end up using it, earning funding from the University of Barcelona for winning a special mention in the City to City Barcelona FAD (El Foment de les Arts i el Disseny/Support for Art and Design) award, a competition recognising initiatives that transform communities across the world.

Italian architect Matteo Ferroni spent three years studying villages in rural Mali, where close to 90% of the population have no access to electricity. He wanted to design a light that villagers could manufacture for themselves, so went on to study how welders in nearby Cinzana built donkey carts, the traditional mode of transport that is still widely used today. He used their expertise, along with parts that could be found in any small village in the country, and came up with a design that would "work for the people, not the manufacturers"

To read the rest of this article, please click on this link to the Guardian's website.

Mali tourism suffers after string of kidnappings - video

Boat tour guides, restaurant owners and traditional artisans are all suffering as Mali's tourism trade collapses. The decline began with the first wave of kidnappings a few years ago, and now foreign embassies consider the entire northern half of the country a no-go zone. Tourism was Mali's third biggest revenue generator, but now many Malians are unable to earn a living from it.

To watch this video, please click on this link to the Guardian's website.

Despite censorship, Mali's musicians play on

Artists in Mali, a country torn apart by al-Qaeda linked militants accused of rape, murder and enforcing strict forms of Sharia law, say their music and culture can never be silenced.  In the historic region of Timbuctu, all music except the Koranic verse has been banned.  It means the famous ‘Festival in the desert’ which has been running for more than 10 years attracting top names like Bono and Robert Plant, can no longer take place there.

(courtesy of the artist)

But as Tamasin Ford reports from Bamako, artists are fighting back.  To listen to this report, please click on this link to the NPR's website.

Tourism in Mali fades away as instability leads to hardship

Lounging on the soft, weather-beaten cushions inside a pinasse, one of the wooden handbuilt boats with a wicker canopy that sail along the Niger river, the tourist guide Gorel Sidibe looks out at the city of Ségou. "You see this area? It's empty everywhere."

Ségou, capital of the ancient Bambara kingdom, used to be the start of the tourism trail to northern Mali. From here, tourists would sail along the wide river through the arid lands and dunes to Mopti, Gao and the historical region of Timbuktu where Sidibe would take visitors camel trekking in the desert.

Since the coup last March that split the country in two and left the north occupied by al-Qaida-linked rebels, and the kidnapping of a French citizen in November, France has enlarged the "red zone", a no-go area for its citizens that now stretches from Mali's northern borders with Mauritania and Algeria to the north shore of the Niger river in Ségou – almost three-quarters of the country.

Other foreign embassies followed suit and warn against all travel to Mali, leaving the tourism sector – Mali's third biggest revenue generator – "almost dead", according to Ousmane Ag Rhissa, the tourism minister.

In 2011 almost 200,000 tourists visited the country, each spending at least $100 (£62) a day; barely 10,000 visited last year.

"The impact is pretty severe," Rhissa said. "Since there are no more tourists coming, there is no income generation."

To read the rest of this article, please click on this link to the Guardian's website.

People in Mali face major economic crisis

The economic impact of the crisis in Mali is rapidly being felt throughout the country. A coup in March led to the occupation in the north of the country by al-Qaida linked militants. Foreign embassies are advising against all travel – crippling the once thriving tourism sector. Many foreign NGOs have shut down operations and Malians are facing job losses alongside an increase in food prices.

To listen to this report, please click on this link to DW's website.

Malians ready to fight to reclaim north - video

People displaced by the conflict in northern Mali say they cannot wait for international help to reclaim the region from Islamist extremists. The UN security council is due to meet on Wednesday to discuss plans for a 3,300-strong regional Ecowas force to enter Mali. But militias in the country say they are preparing to take matters into their own hands.

To watch this video, please click on this link to the Guardian's website