As we continue to settle into life in the States, we’ve been watching Mali with great sadness. The past few weeks have seen violent demonstrations both in favor of and against the junta government. In theory, the junta has stepped down and a transition government has been been officially put in place to help establish elections and restore democracy. The military coup leader has faded into the background, though he still appears to be pulling strings behind the scenes. In recognition of his stepping back, he has been officially granted “former head of state” status, meaning he will now be recognized as and treated on the same level as Mali’s former presidents complete with perks such as a mansion provided by the government along with a monthly pension that is 50 times his salary as a soldier. A fine example for young Malians to look up to and aspire for. Meanwhile, last week Mali’s transitional President was attacked by an angry mob in the Presidential palace while the military guards looked on. He is now recovering in France.
As all of this has been happening in Bamako, the situation in the north of Mali has been growing worse. The two bands of rebels that have taken over have formally aligned their efforts and officially announced they have formed an Islamic state based on shari'ah law. There are reports of TVs being smashed, people being beaten for smoking, and women forced to cover their faces with veils. Schools have also been segregated and boys and girls are not allowed to be in the same classroom together. The number of people that have fled their homes and are now living as refugees has risen to over 300,000.