Tuesday, August 02, 2011

I am writing from a parched land.
We are in the rainy season, but the French have bled us dry. I am a toubab, I will survive, but others are not so lucky. The French, through a vicious and irresponsible foreign policy have decided to decimate one of the only viable industries here: the tourism industry. There can be no doubt of what I am claiming; it is common knowledge here now that the French Government are inventing threats by the Maghreb branch of Al Quaida in order to destroy the Malian tourist trade. They want the Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure to sign an agreement to repatriate all illegal Malians in France. ATT has refused and is refusing steadfastly. Some of the Malians concerned have lived in France for 20 years, and have contributed to French economic growth, often by doing jobs the French won’t do themselves.
Until ATT signs the agreement, the ‘Northern Areas’ of Mali will remain out of bounds, and tourists will be dissuaded from travel. Insurance policies won’t work.
And other Embassies will toe the line, following meekly in the wake of the former colonisers like lemmings. The line of danger is drawn just south of all the areas that matter in Malian tourism: Djenne and the Dogon country is included in the no-go area, although God knows that there has never ever been the smallest threat to anyone travelling in these areas!
The British Embassy here has referred me to the travel advice given by the British Foreign Office. This is based entirely on the French version. Let us examine what the alleged threats are by examining the text: In order to be able to put Mali on red alert, is has been necessary to talk about the Sahel region as a whole. The incidents in Mali are too few and too old as well as too irrelevant to the tourist trade to cut any mustard on their own. If mixed in with the rest of the Sahel, unthinking people might be swayed. It is very regrettable that the British Foreign Office should be counted amongst the unthinking ones. Here is their MALI advice:

'Safety and Security - Terrorism
There is a high threat from terrorism. Terrorists have been involved in kidnaps in the region and we believe that further kidnap attacks are likely. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M) operates directly or through criminal gangs who carry out kidnappings on their behalf or pass on their kidnap victims for monetary gain and attacks have occurred across a wide area of the Sahel:
On 19 April the Embassy of France in Bamako (Mali) alerted its nationals of a “very high risk” of being kidnapped in Mali and Niger particularly between the city of Mopti and the border with Burkina Faso.
On 4 February 2011 an Italian national was kidnapped in south-eastern Algeria near the city of Djanet, for which AQ-M have claimed responsibility. THIS IS IN SOUTHERN ALGERIA On 8 January 2011, French authorities confirmed that two French nationals kidnapped from Niamey, in Niger, had been killed near the border with Mali. THIS IS IN THE NIGER
On 5 January 2011 the French Embassy in Bamako was attacked by an individual using explosives and a handgun. THIS ATTACK WAS BY A LUNATIC WHO CLAIMED AL QUAIDA (AQ-M) STATUS. THIS WAS DENIED BY AQ-M WHO SAID THEY HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. On 16 September 2010, five French nationals were kidnapped in the town of Arlit in Niger. THIS IS IN THE NIGER
On 26 July 2010 the French government confirmed that French national Michel Germaneau, who was kidnapped on 22 April near Arlit in north-western Niger, had been murdered. THIS IS IN THE NIGER
On 28 December 2009, a group of Saudi Arabian nationals were attacked near the village of Djambala in Niger, close to the Mali border. Four of the group died in this attack. THIS IS IN THE NIGER
On 18 December 2009 an Italian couple were kidnapped by an armed group in south eastern Mauritania 18 km east of Kobonni on the road to Mali. THIS IS IN MAURITANIA
On 29 November 2009 three Spanish nationals were kidnapped whilst travelling in a convoy on the road from Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, to the northern city of Nouadhibou. THIS IS IN MAURITANIA
On 25 November 2009 a French national was kidnapped near the city of Gao in Eastern Mali. THIS IS THE ONLY ONE SO FAR IN MALI- NOT IN A TOURIST AREA!THE INCIDENT IS TWO YEARS OLD.
On November 14, 2009, there was an attempted kidnap in Tahoua, Niger, by heavily armed individuals against employees of the American Embassy. THIS IS IN THE NIGER
A group of European tourists were kidnapped in the area of the Mali-Niger border on 22 January 2009. A British national who was part of this group was later murdered. THIS WAS POSSIBLY IN THE NIGER, IN ANY CASE HUNDREDS OF MILES FROM ANY MALIAN TOURIST DESTINATIONS. THE INCIDENT IS TWO AND A HALF YEARS OLD.
On 14 December 2008 two Canadian diplomats were kidnapped 25 miles outside of Niamey and held in Mali. THE INCIDENT HAPPENED IN THE NIGER AND IS NEARLY 3 YEARS OLD. IT ALSO HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH TOURISTS OR MALI TOURIST AREAS!
Therefore, it remains a fact that no tourist has ever come to any harm, been attacked, been kidnapped in any of the normal tourist areas of Mali! That makes no difference.
17 people were blown up in Marrakesh in April in the main tourist area. This is a fact. The French does not advice against travel in Morocco. Neither does the Brits.
What is going on??? Make your own mind up.


Blogger David said...

Your savage indignation is splendid and right - and they clearly so wrong.

10:00 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

thank you dearest. It will make not the tiniest bit of difference however!

11:26 AM  
Blogger Yvonne Gerner said...

hallo sophie,
i would like to send your indignation to the dutch embassy and friends in Holland because it's so clearly written. want to ask you if you are okay with that.
( we met 14 july at Martine).

8:23 PM  
Blogger Yvonne Gerner said...

sorry, my mail adress is yvonne@rondombaba.nl

8:24 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Dear Yvonne,
of course you can send it to the Dutch Embassy.
But I believe the Dutch are some of the only ones that are keeping some sanity going- I had a couple of Dutchmen staying here last night- they said the Dutch Foreign Office dissuaded only travel in the far North desrt regions of Mali. This seems to me to be sensible advice, and I congratualte the Dutch.

8:34 PM  
Blogger Yvonne Gerner said...

yes, nevertheless, i'm always in contact with them and they are glad with this kind of information. It's not easy to argumente with the people of the french embassy, they say their secret information about al qaida is the best.
but anyway thank you for your answer and i'm telling friends from holland to visit your nice hotel

8:36 PM  
Blogger Richard Trillo said...

The whole situation is getting ridiculous. I also posted a long analysis of the true terrorism threat in the Sahel and my conclusion is that an American is twice as likely to be murdered in the US in any given year as a tourist is in any given stay in the Sahel.


6:52 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Dear Richard,
I am glad you read this! I have been trying to post a comment on your blog, but some technical gremlins are trying- and succeeding in deterring me! In any case, I read your excellent article on your west africa blog
(theroughguidetowestafrica.blogspot.com)and have wanted to thank you for being a sane voice in all this madness!
All the best. w2hen are you coming to Djenne?

8:13 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Dear Richard,
I am glad you read this! I have been trying to post a comment on your blog, but some technical gremlins are trying- and succeeding in deterring me! In any case, I read your excellent article on your west africa blog
(theroughguidetowestafrica.blogspot.com)and have wanted to thank you for being a sane voice in all this madness!
All the best. w2hen are you coming to Djenne?

8:13 PM  
Blogger Richard Trillo said...

Hmm, sorry about that. It ought to be pretty simple for one google blogger to comment on another google blogger's blog (!).

Try again:

9:37 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth F said...

The Germans follow more or less the French "advice", but in a somehow ambivalent way: They advice not to travel to the entire region of Mopti. Development workers are treated differently. When you are based in Bamako, it happened during the last months that your were not allowed to go on mission to Mopti or the dogon country. When you are based in dogon country, you receive now ánd then some security warnings, but without any serious concept or support. P.ex. "pay increased attention" - but towards what? In my feeling they can't decide whether there is a risk or not (probably because they are proud of the development projects run over here).

6:10 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Dear Elizabeth,
should I present my complaints to the German Embassy too? I would love to, but will I have the time? Leaving for Bamako tomorrow. stsaying two days. Will try and do what I can. It will of course make no difference whatsoever, but that should not be a reaseon to stop one...

10:50 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth F said...

Hi Sophie,
yes, please, do so, if you find the time
See you Elisabeth

6:56 PM  

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