Posts Tagged ‘culture’

Mali. Again (part one of five)

July 27, 2016

No, I have not been back to Mali and I regret that. The immediate occasion for writing this was the release of a deeply worrying report on Mali, by the International Crisis Group. More about that shortly. But there is also a distinct Dutch angle to this entry. The Netherlands currently deploy some 400 soldiers, police and civilians in Mali, under the torn umbrella of a UN operation. It is a deployment the Dutch government wants to prolong. This is, as you shall see, a very bad idea.

***

Let’s go to a packed hall in a mid-sized town away from Bamako, the Malian capital. You are about to witness, in very condensed form, everything that has gone wrong and continues to go wrong with the country and its international “partnerships”.

First, we are given a clear and unequivocal demonstration of the contempt in which we, ordinary citizens, are held by those who rule us. The main speakers do not arrive until well over an hour after the advertised time. They are the veteran administrators; armed with an inexhaustible supply of platitudes they proceed to bore us to death with their off-the-shelve discourse. Move over Tony Blair and Manuel Barroso: you have competition.

‘Culture is the key to achieve national reconciliation,’ intones one. Stop the press! On second thought, don’t bother. A minister has been appointed to take care of that, so all will be well…with national reconciliation, to avoid confusion. Culture is something ordinary Malians take seriously, when they are not busy trying to survive. For politicians it is a vehicle that helps them further their careers.

‘Our international partners are important to us.’ Except those we consider deeply beneath us; they can wait in a sweaty overcrowded hall until we can be bothered to show up. The really important ones, like the European Union, individual donor countries, the French, the UN agencies – those have representatives and we meet informally. We will, of course, never tell you what’s been discussed. Now shut up and listen to the praise-singers we’ve sent you. Culture!

The old administrators talk about “values”. Ah yes, those. What they are and what they mean should of course remain as vague as possible. The French language (all of this goes on in French), one begins to suspect, was invented for the purpose of dissimulation…

‘Who are we and where are we going?’

‘We are one great family.’

‘Peace and stability are important preconditions for development.’

‘We have always lived together in harmony.’

‘We don’t consider colour or religion.’

Have pity on those large ventilators hanging from the ceiling. They probably have fewer problems with the room temperature than with the sheer colossal amount of stiflingly hot air this august panel emits from behind the table.

(to be continued)