3.23.2012

Ce N'est Pas Bon: Malian Coup and Music

The large West African/Sahel-region country of Mali, often praised for its democratic government, experienced a military coup Wednesday. Coups are not foreign to Africa, but recently they've been going out of style, so to speak. 

3.21.12 Coup
For years Mali has had an armed rebellion in the North by Tuareg fighters who want a more autonomy. Especially with such a sparsely populated northern region, the Tuareg fighters claim they've been more neglected by the government than those in the South. There is always that delicate balancing act that governments have to play when regions of the country aren't densely populated, because if they are neglected too much, it spurs rebellions such as this.

The Tuareg rebellion has been occurring for years, but with returning fighters from Libya, they are amping up the level of violence now that they have more serious weaponry. This begins to ring a bell of other civil wars funded/armed by Qaddafi (Charles Taylor was trained by Qaddafi along with Foday Sankoh, Blaise Campaore, and many many others). Qaddafi wanted to increase revolutionary fervor in West Africa and he supported destabilizing rebel movements. The returning armed Tuareg fighters from Libya who are escalating the rebellion would be just what Qaddafi wanted. 

Malian military leaders claim they overthrew the government because they were fed up with being under-equipped to fight the Tuareg fighters. Mali's President, Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT), was going to step down after elections that were slated to be held on April 29th, which he gave no indication for running in. The military leaders have so far closed Mali's borders, suspended the constitution, dissolved government, and claim that they will re-install a democratic government through elections soon. But we'll see about that.

When rumors of the coup began to spread, the official twitter account of the Malian President (@PresidenceMali) dispelled the rumors by stating: 
Il n'y a pas de coup d'état au Mali. Il y a juste une mutinerie dans la garnison de Kati...Pour preuve, j'emets du Palais de la Présidence. Des déserteurs et d'autres militaires qui ne veulent pas aller au front se sont mutinés...Démenti formel : Le Ministre de la Défense n'est ni blessé ni arrêté. Il est à son bureau où il poursuit calmement sa journée de travail
Toure claimed that there wasn't a coup and that it was just a mutiny by soldiers at an army garrison who did not want to go the Northern front to fight the Tuareg fighters. He claimed that the Ministry of defense was neither hurt nor arrested and that he was in his office doing his usual work. After that tweet, the twitter account stopped updating with information. One of Mali's national newspapers (L'essor) which was temporarily offline has now been restored, but has not been updated since the coup. The website linked to Toure's twitter account has also been removed. The whereabouts of Toure remain unknown.

For more background on the coup, Tuareg fighters, and the current situation in Mali, watch this Al Jazeera video, this BBC video which shows the army's announcement of take-over, and listen to the following podcast by UN Dispatch editor Mark Goldberg


Malian Music's Message to Politics
Amadou et Mariam were the first African musicians I began listening to years and years ago - coincidentally, they are from Mali and often sing about Malian life and politics. When I heard about the coup, my mind immediately connected to two of their songs specifically: Ce N'est Pas Bon and Politic Amagni, both of which have very political messages. 

The song Ce N'est Pas Bon (video above) says: 
L'hypocrisie dans la politique, (Hypocrisy in politics)
Démagogie dans la politique, (Demagogy in politics)
Ce n'est pas bon. Ce n'est pas bon. Nous n'en voulons pas. (It's not good. It's not good. We don't want it)
La dictature dans la politique, (Dictators in politics)
Ce n'est pas bon...(It's not good...)
While the song Politic Amagni (video below) has a similar message:
Politics needs blood, Politics needs cries
Politics needs Human Beings, Politics needs votes
That's why, my friend, it's evident
Politics is violence
Music is often a tool through which a population can voice their opinions of government. Amadou and Mariam are just one example of musicians calling for a change in government policies through their lyrics. For a while, the Malian government was listening to these calls...but now, it seems as if la politique a retourner a violence.

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