Published on 26 Jan 2013

Mali: how will the city of Gao welcome the French?

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We are on the road heading north east to Gao which has been in Islamist hands for nine months. When we stopped at the village for BorĂ© people clustered around the Malian army vehicle shouting “Vive la France”.

I keep telling people that I’m British but they don’t seem to care – they just say “thank you, thank you”.

One man in Boré said to me that they had lived in fear of the jihadists who had occupied the town. We drove on through the desert scrub landscape, huge stone cliffs rising to our left and thorn trees littering the flat lands to our right.

This is a barren area where goats and camels are the only livestock who can easily survive the dry months. At Douentza I got chatting to the local school teacher. A pretty woman in a blue dress and matching head scarf sitting on her motorbike.

“The jihadists were here for six months,” she said. “They forced us to wear veils or stay inside. They beat people for smoking. I had to close the school. They hate everything nice like music and photographs. They even tried to take our mobile phones.”

Most of the people I’ve seen cheering the Malian forces are black. The jihadists are mainly made of Arabs – some Malian, some foreign – and Tuareg. The question will be whether those Malians welcome the French and the Malian armed forces with the same enthusiasm?

The Malian army is known for committing human rights abuses, especially against the lighter skinned Tuareg and Arabs.

We hope to be in Gao later today to witness how the French in Mali are greeted in the first major city to fall to them in this war.

Follow Lindsey Hilsum on Twitter: @lindseyhilsum

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8 reader comments

  1. Michael A. Ajayi says:

    This means Malian people needs the hand of a helper, or they need saviour that can deliver them at hand of extremist islamist

  2. Ajila adewale says:

    God is in control of everthing in dis earth,we are in his hand and he knows the best to do and he wil surely c us 2ru in every worst phase of life.

    1. Joseph Lally says:

      If there is a ‘god’ in control of ‘everything’ and one assumes that such a deity is good, kind, compassionate and wise, where has this all knowing and compassionate being been during all the wars, pestilence, poverty and bigotry in history?

  3. Muhammed K says:

    The French may well be greeted as liberators by the majority in Mali who don’t want islamic law forced upon them, but while the insurgents are still being funded by those who see it as their duty to spread sharia and extreme islam (allegedly the Qataries and the Saudis) they will always be a threat to that region.

  4. Bestman. M. Walson says:

    God is in control of everything here on earth,the problem of Mali is in the hand of God,the jihadist or the islamist are the anti-christ here on earth,as God has said in his words in the Bible that the anti-christ is already here on earth with us. Jesus the son of God has already predicted that we shall here of wars and rumours of wars that we should not be trouble,sooner or later God will end evil here on earth

  5. Alan says:

    God needs to come down and show clear support for one side or the other. Right now, it’s impossible to determine which side he is on given the enormous suffering being visited on all sides in the numerous conflicts currently underway the middle east and north Africa.

  6. ntare says:

    God gave us every thing. But if you continue sleeping, dreaming don’t blame God. How is the population of mali? Can not defend thier country? Except if you are dreaming that French and Americans are your gods!!
    Africans are rather naive

Comments are closed.