Thursday, March 29, 2012

Go Away

New developments today.  Presidents from 5 different West African countries representing ECOWAS, the African regional bloc of nations, were scheduled to meet with the coup leader today to negotiate a resolution.  Protestors supporting the coup blocked the runway of Bamako International Airport and the plane was forced to turn around.  As a result, in 72 hours, Mali will be cut off from all imports and the money supply from the central bank will be blocked.  Because Mali is landlocked, the country relies on imports of everything from food to fuel.  These are powerful sanctions that will cripple Mali.  In addition, peacekeeping troops are standing by to enter Mali.  There were also other protests around Bamako today that turned violent as supporters and opponents of the coup faced off.

In other news, because the military is focused on controlling Mali with the coup, their attention has been drawn away from the original problem of a separate Tuareg rebellion happening in the north of Mali.  Today, the town of Kidal came under heavy attack and is in jeopardy of falling into rebel Tuareg hands.  Kidal is considered a key town in the fight to take over the north.  This will give the Tuareg rebellion a considerable advantage in the fight.  Ironically enough, the coup that overthrew Mali’s democracy was waged because the military felt they weren’t given enough resources to fight in the north.  The low ranking, inexperienced leader of the coup felt he could do a better job defending the north of Mali.  Now because of his actions, the north is in serious jeopardy of falling to the rebellion due to the military’s focus on the coup and all outside aid to the military being suspended.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Grieving Process

When we arrived in Africa 11 years ago, Mali was considered a shining star of democracy in West Africa.  The country was peaceful and an active government “for the people, by the people” was in place.  In the last 5 days, we’ve seen that all come crashing to an end.  As a result of the coup, we are now living under military rule.  A new constitution was hastily put together and revealed last night.  Although it contains many elements and freedoms of the original constitution, it has replaced democratically elected officials with a military leader and committee appointed by him.  The new constitution also grants immunity to all committee members – a very frightening provision.  The coup has been condemned by every nation we’re aware of and calls are ringing out from across the continent and globe to restore democratic order.  Several sanctions are now being prepared to pressure the junta.

We were devastated today that a group of thousands marched downtown today in support of the military coup.  We are grieving the loss of the country we have known and loved for so many years.  There is still a lot of political bantering going back and forth.  It’s difficult to say where the loyalty of the majority of Malians lies.  The African Union, ECOWAS, United Nations, etc. all want to see democracy restored immediately.  But many Malians are speaking out about this and call for the international community to back away and let the chips fall where they may.  This ping pong match is sure to go back and forth for quite awhile.  In the meantime, we continue to pray for God to intervene and restore Mali.

Things remain calm in Bamako and life is carrying on as normally as possible.  We remain safe and secure and are in no immediate danger.  As such, we won’t be updating our blog daily as there isn’t much news to report other than political issues we’d rather avoid getting involved in.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bank Holiday

Thankfully we had another quiet day in Mali.  But we’re still waiting.  One of our colleagues in Mali summed it up well today, “Things seem as normal as can be – but that is a mask, for sure…stuff is going on”.  The whereabouts of the deposed president are still unknown.  The airport has opened for limited flights and the land borders are open again.  But we still remain under curfew.

Mali shares currency with a bloc of 8 countries in West Africa.  There are rumors the Central Bank of West Africa is going to limit the money supply to Mali to pressure the junta.  Today, all the banks in Bamako closed at 1pm.  ATMs dried up quickly.  This could have serious consequences.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Put Another Irony on the Fire

March 26th is a Malian national holiday known as the “Day of Democracy”.  It commemorates a coup 21 years ago which ended a military dictatorship and formed the democratic government.  It’s also commonly referred to as the “Day of Martyrs” because a group of students protesting the government were gunned down by the military on March 26, 1991. Now here we are 21 years later and just 4 weeks away from the democratic election of a new president with the tables completely turned – democracy has been taken away by a military leader.

In honor of the Day of Democracy, a protest of over 1,000 people marched downtown calling for the junta to step down and restore constitutional order to Mali.  Believe it or not, there are currently 38 political parties in Mali.  Today they all announced a united front against the coup.  In addition, the current government officials being held hostage by the junta, including the prime minister and foreign minister, have started a hunger strike in protest of their imprisonment and the overthrow of the government.

We are happy to announce some major progress was made today when the coup leader announced the airport will be open limited hours tomorrow.  Hopefully this is the start of the surrender of power.  There is still a lot of uncertainty as anything can still happen.  BCA has decided to remain closed this week.  We’ll be taking our Spring break a week early and hopefully recommence school next week.  The students are pretty disappointed about this as most of them have been going stir crazy with the curfew and are anxious to get back to school with their friends.  Please continue to pray.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry For Tomorrow…

Whew!  Another quiet day.  The embassy gave the clear to run small errands in our neighborhood during the day.  We were able to stock up on some more food and make a pharmacy run to ensure we have enough medicine to see us through a few weeks.  Unfortunately all the ATMs appear to be out of money.  Thankfully we’ve stashed away a large sum of cash to get through several weeks.  While we were out, we stopped for ice cream at the local bakery – talk about a surreal moment – eating ice cream in the midst of a military coup!

The rebel leader’s arrogance continues to escalate.  In his talks with negotiators from the African Union and other international bodies, along with interviews for international media, he has been declaring his is in complete control of the country.

There is a large pro-democracy protest planned for tomorrow.  This has the potential to begin a counter-coup and fighting may begin again.  We’re waiting on pins and needles.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Eye of the Storm

Thankfully, things were quiet again today.  The situation was calm enough for Anne-Marie’s dad to pick her up and take her home to Fana.  Anne-Marie was very happy to be back with her family in this time of crisis.

Some stores in our neighborhood were open today and people were out on the street.  There was a general feeling that things are “normal”.  We took the opportunity to stock up on food and supplies.  The airport and borders remain closed meaning it’s only a matter of time before food begins running out.  Fuel supplies are also running very low which will have a big impact soon.

There have been reports of soldiers looting around the city.  The leader of the rebellion went on TV today to assure people everything is under control.  He gave quite an interesting explanation of the looting problem.  According to him, people are dressing up like police and soldiers to create havoc to discredit the mutineers.  Speaking of TV, we’ve nicknamed the national TV station “Rebel TV”.  Some programming has returned, however it’s often interrupted by messages from the junta.  (We’re learning all kinds of new terms).

There is still a lot of uncertainty in the air.  We remain under curfew and confined to our homes from 6pm – 6am.  There are conflicting reports on the whereabouts of the deposed president, and no one is sure what the breakdown of loyalties of the military are.  In the meantime, the rebellion in the north of Mali, which prompted this coup, is advancing and taking more territory because of the disunity of the military.  Please continue to pray for a peaceful resolution.  We’re treasuring the peace right now, but we feel the pot is getting ready to boil over and havoc is on the horizon.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fall of a Rising Star

MALI-SOLDIERS-STREETYesterday, gunfire could be heard throughout the day all around Bamako.  It was unnerving when soldiers fired off their machine guns several times right outside our front door and behind our house.  We are happy to report a much quieter day today.  We did hear sporadic, distant gunfire, but nothing close to our home.  We continue to be under an indefinite curfew.  Most shops remain closed and food and other essentials are running scarce.  The price of gasoline spiked today to $11 a gallon.  There is a lot of uncertainty in the air as no one seems to know what's going to happen next.  The rebellion is being led by a low ranking officer who doesn't seem to have much of a plan.  No one seems to know how much of the military is loyal to the government and how many are actively participating in the rebellion.  The overthrow of the President is especially heartbreaking because presidential elections are less than a month away and a transfer of power was due to happen naturally as part of the democratic process.  We continue to pray civil unrest will not be the next step.

The rebellion has also caused all aid agencies and international partners to halt aid to Mali - something that's desperately needed - especially since Mali is currently suffocating under famine conditions due to an insufficient rainy season.  We are grieving that just 48 hours ago, this nation was the rare example of a peaceful and successful democratic African country, and the crown jewel of West Africa.  Now the entire house of cards has come crashing down.

We are currently safe and don't feel we're in any impending danger and have no immediate plans to leave.  However we are unsure what the future holds.  Please continue to keep us and the nation of Mali in your prayers.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

You Say You Want A Revolution

To make a long story short, the Malian government toppled this morning.  In coupe d’etat, the Malian military has taken over and established a new government called the Committee for the Re-establishment of Democracy and the Restoration of the State.  The Presidential Palace has been overrun and the former President is now in hiding.  The old government and constitution have been dissolved and all the government ministers are being arrested.  Bamako is now under a curfew and all businesses are closed.  The airport has also been closed.  We are hearing a lot of gunfire as the military is establishing order under the new regime.

For the time being, everything is focused on the government and civilians are not being targeted.  We will continue to remain in our house.  We have enough supplies to see us through several days.  We’ve also been informed to anticipate utility outages.  This could limit our updates in the immediate future.  We’ll try to keep you informed when we can.  For now, rest assured that we are safe but your prayers are desperately needed for Mali.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Shot In the Dark

A couple of weeks ago, the rebels in the north of Mali took over a Malian military base.  It’s been relatively quiet since then.  However, today more protests started in Bamako because people are discontented about how the government is handling the rebellion.  In particular, the military is frustrated and feel they have been held back and are ill equipped in fighting the rebels.  Today, some in the military have greatly escalated their show of discontent.  Violence broke out in a small town just outside of Bamako.  In addition, the national TV station was overrun by the military and shut down along with several radio stations operated by the government.  Sporadic gunfire can be heard around Bamako as the military takes to the streets.  We’ve heard several outbursts of gunfire from our house tonight.

There are a couple of major protests planned for tomorrow including a march on the Presidential Palace.  The Presidential guard has surrounded the Palace with armored military vehicles in an attempt to protect it.  The American school, French school, and our school will all be closed tomorrow and we are advised to stay in our homes.  We are getting regular updates from the U.S. Embassy.  Also, we were expecting someone to arrive in Mali tonight via Air France.  But the flight was turned around halfway to Mali, yet another sign that unrest is in the air.

We are taking extra precautions and have hunkered down at home, however we continue to feel our family is safe.  We do appreciate your prayers for a quick and peaceful end to this situation.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

E-Ticket Ride

We received our plane tickets to the States!  It’s been over 5 years since we’ve had a furlough and we’re really starting to feel it.  We will be coming to Southern California this summer and staying through January.  It has been a big decision for Cole to attend a high school with more than 8 students.  He was apprehensive at first, but now he’s really looking forward to it.  It’s also been a difficult decision to leave teaching at BCA for our furlough time.  But we’ve come to the realization that we are well on the road to major burnout and need an extended break from Africa.  We also have several serious medical issues to pursue and some exciting new ministry opportunities to explore in the U.S.

We’ll be arriving in late June via Casablanca and London.  It’s going to be a long, 2 day voyage, but we’re looking forward to our arrival at LAX.  We’ll be spending July in Orange courtesy of one of our supporters who has offered their condo while they’re on vacation in Europe.  The remainder of the time we’ll be living in one of our church’s mission houses in Tustin.

We’re very excited and have already begun counting down the days.  We’re looking forward to having some extended time to see everyone.