Saturday, March 30, 2013

Murky Waters

Last night's communique on Malian ORTM TV  from the Malian defence minister General Yamoussa Camara in translation:
The Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs informs national and international opinion that on  the March 20, 2013  the village of Bougoumi in the area of Tenenkou, Mopti region, was attacked by armed men belonging to the MNLA. The casualties are particularly heavy:  twenty dead and missing from the local population.
In addition to the killings, rapes were committed, people robbed of their property, two pick-up trucks were taken.
The Minister bows to the memory of the dead and expresses its deepest sympathy to their families. He asked the people to remain calm and reassured them  that actions are underway to search the areas better and to secure it from harm of  terrorist groups.
The Minister invites people to be vigilant and to report any infiltration of suspects as soon as possible to the nearest army unit.
Armed forces and their allies take all measures to ensure the safety of persons and property.
Bamako March 29, 2013

This communiqué has been ignored by the international press apart from the Chinese News agency  Xinhua  which reports it almost word  for word.  Their report appeared on MaliJet, a daily online news channel.
It has caused a storm on the comments page of MaliJet.
One of the moderate comments:
Mr. Minister,  it is not by saying untruths that problems will be solved.
The MNLA is in Kidal, Tessalit Aguelhoc, but certainly not in Mopti, Sévaré Kona. These are soldiers of the MUJAO in flight who are attacking the people of this region.
You will complain that the international press are defending the MNLA. But if you accuse wrongly you reinforce the enemy.  Send your failures from Kati to secure the area.
Indeed to accuse the MNLA of this attack seems to have been rather a clumsy anti-MNLA propaganda tactic, which has back-fired to the extent that no one is now even interested in the fact that 20 innocent people have been slaughtered. That the atrocity took place is not contested. But by whom?
I spoke to the staff at the Library this morning. They think the attack was made as a reprisal for the arrest of two armed Touareg fighters who were denounced by the population of Tenenkou  and arrested by the Malian Army in the beginning of March and transported to Bamako.  According to the population they may have been MNLA. When the population finds an armed Touareg, they believe he is a member of the MNLA. And as one commentator put it in the comments page of Malijet:
AQUMIMUJAOALQUAIDAMNLA c’est la même chose!!!
The worrying thing is that no one representing the international press seems to want to touch this story. On the other hand they are very keen to report anything suggesting that the Malian Army is involved in reprisals and atrocities. Malians feel keenly that he international opinion is biased against them in favour of the MNLA.
But certainly, the defense minister does himself and Mali no favours by claiming this massacre was perpetuated by the MNLA, when it is difficult or indeed impossible to prove it.

(Addition a couple of hours later: Keita just arrived and an argument erupted. 'Why don't you believe what the defense minister says?' Keita , always loyal to the Malian army, wants to know. 'If he says it was the MNLA there is no reason to disbelieve him. They have taken 10 days before they reported this event. That is probably because they have conducted investigations before pronouncing on it'. )
Who knows? But the question remains: do the slaughtered civilians in Bougoumi really care if they were killed by the MUJAO, the ANSAR DINE or the MNLA?


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