Le Front de Libération de Macina ?
Mali is abuzz with a new concept: The Macina Liberation Front, purportedly a new terrorist organisation, referred to in a recent document published by Human Rights Watch who holds them responsible for a number of terrorist attacks in central Mali: the regions of Mopti and Segou. Malian press as well as RFI (Radio France Inter) has picked up on this, and the spin is in full spin as it were… The Independent (the Malian one, not the UK version) has the lurid headline: ‘Mopti, the Venise of the North, in a state of psychosis, last weekend’. (This may be slightly exaggerated, since I just spoke to a Mopti friend of mine who said she had never heard of it).
Of course I, as a hotel owner in the region, have every reason to play down something like this and I am aware that my opinion is unlikely to be taken seriously . Nevertheless, I will add my little dissenting voice to the overwhelming clamour of the MINUSMA specialists and the Human Rights Watch people, who write their reports mostly from the safety and comfort of Bamako.
But his statement , those of RFI and of all other commentators make the fundamental mistake of not pointing out - either by ignorance or by expedience- that the regions of Mopti and Segou have the geographical dividing line of the river Niger running through them: all the large cities and administration centres are situated to the east of the river Niger and they follow the main road leading to the north i.e. Segou, San, Bla, Mopti, Djenné, Sevaré, Mopti. The eastern regions also include the entire Dogon country. These are the regions that have 'been spared' and they still are.
Since it seems that this blog post is still getting some readership, I feel it has to be edited. Although I still believe I was correct in my theory of the relative safety of the Eastern shores of the Niger at the time of the writing, this is of course now sadly no longer true, and groups of bandits, sometimes claiming to be members of the Macina group, are attacking civilians and military personnel in random locations in central Mali.
There was also the destruction of Sekou Amadou Barry's mausoleum at Hamdallay, a destructive act which was claimed by the Macina group: this at the time seemed contradictory: why should adherents to the group that reveres his memory destroy the grave of their hero? But of course Sekou Amadou himself would have been against the buildings of mausoleums to revere the dead, but he had no control over what happened to his own body once he died.
As far as Djenné is concerned, it is still untouched by any violence, and this has been so since the beginning of the crisis. This does not prevent all the foreign office warning sites to place it well out of bounds for travel. UN personnel and the French Barkhane forces as well as all diplomats are forbidden to travel to Djenné although they are in Sevaré (site of the recent hotel siege) and in Mopti in great numbers. This remains a great mystery to everyone in Djenné and a great sadness to those in the tourism industry which is now non-existent for many years in Djenné, while many in the hotel and restaurant industry in places like Bamako, Sevaré and even Timbuktu are not only surviving but making an excellent living particularly from the affluent UN contingent.