Storming corridors of power

Storming halls of power

After weeks of interviews with musicians it became more and more clear that I needed a comment from someone who was involved in the shaping of Mali´s culture on a political level. Also a few comments concerning Mali´s mining policy.

My first chief editor told me that you should always aim for the person at the top and only move down the political ladder if you have to. A good rule, but that often results in that I get answers written in an email from a political secretary. This after days of emailing. A meeting? Never. At least not in Sweden.

Therefore I was a bit worried that here in Mali this might become a bit of a struggle. Organizations such as Reporters without borders do not exactly rank Mali among the top countries in the world when it comes to freedom of press. Since I neither speak French or Bambara I did not want to try to reach them through emails or phone. So we tried a different approach.

Almost all ministers in Mali are working in a handful of buildings placed next to each other, surrounded by walls and guards. These buildings contains almost every minister’s office and all the staff that surrounds him or her. To get in my driver had to show his ID and explain the reason of our visit, I only had to show my white skin (or maybe it was my smile, who knows?).

Inside the walls we just followed a few signs and started to ask for the minister’s office – and it worked! Ok, we did not reach the culture or mining ministers themselves, but we got to me both ministers representatives – without filling in a single piece of papers or spending days trying to organize a meeting.

So here I am with answers to all my questions from people that represents top politicians in Mali. And it only took me one day.

 

A industry driven by hope, part 1

Once again I found myself travelling before dawn. On pitch dark roads we cruised back to Bamako with a cab drivers who´s car lacked working lights. Somehow he still managed to avoid most of the big holes and the trucks that met us before we arrived at one of Bamako’s busstations.

But nothing is easy when it comes to travelling in West Africa, at least not for me it seems. Once again the bus I jumped on broke down and our travelling time went from 8 to 15 hours. But few bad things can not be turned into something good and we soon realized that the next bus we got on where filled men and women heading for different mines. A perfect time for small talk.

“I few years ago I would never had guessed that I would become a miner. But once you found that one piece of gold and you get that feeling, well its hard not to come back after that,” one man told me.

I asked another who long he planned to stay. First he just smiled at me, then he replied:
“As long as it takes.”

When we arrived at our destination, a small town close to the Senegal border, the sun had set. We found ourself waiting in the darkness, surrounded by nothing more than empty street shops and a raging wind that seemed to want us gone before we had arrived.
We where picked up by my guide´s friend: a man that combines mining with missionary work and spent the night in his house. The village he and his wife lives in lies in a beautiful area totally surrounded mountains that circles around the area like one huge wall.

With the help of our host  we could travel further out into the countryside on mopeds to find an area filled with different mining fields. One driven by a big company, but most by normal men and women that hopes that they will be the one who finds that big lump of gold that will change their lives. But we were soon told that to be here and report from this place, we first had to talk to the village elder and get his permission. The village elder had been sacrificing an animal to increase the chance that the local miners found gold, but should be back by now. And so we went on to meet this man…

Next part follows in a couple of days.