Life under occupation

One of the many things I was told by people who had been living under the foreign occupation of their land between March 2012 and January 2013 was this little gem from Timbuktu, the city where the invaders smashed up statuettes, broke down the mythical door of the Sidi Yahia Mosque and destroyed holy shrines that had been a feature of the City of 333 Saints. Yes, as one imam testified, Timbuktu was losing its soul to a bunch of halfwits who had brought the poison of the unforgivably poor interpretation of the Koran from the theological wasteland known as Wahabbism into a richly cultured city they did not understand. And what do simpletons do with things they do not understand? They smash them up. What do simpletons do with people they don’t understand? They kill them. Or hack off their hands and feet.

But what they clearly did not break was the people’s spirit. I was told this tale by a young and adventurous chap from Timbuktu, who I met in Burkina Faso. ‘You know how they banned music and smoking and drinking and whatnot? Well we ordered drinks by the crate from Mopti. How it got to us? As it always did, by pirogue. Yes, the river. Did they ever find out? Pfff, of course not, they had no idea how to enter or exit the city. You have to remember they were all foreigners. They knew nothing. To us, it’s home. They only thing they knew about was how to stone people and to smash things up. And they used drugs. How do I know that? Because I saw it…’ His disdain was palpable. Just one little snippet of life during occupation. He finally had to flee and even though Mali’s problems are far from over, he’s probably back by now.


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