Malians feel abandoned by national politicians
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Two months after the liberation of the northern Malian city of Gao, residents say not a single major politician or political party official has visited the city raising concerns over the national rebuilding and reconciliation process.
It’s been more than two months since the northern Malian city of Gao was liberated in a French military offensive against jihadist fighters.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian paid a surprise visit earlier this month followed by the speaker of the French National Assembly, Claude Bartolone. Le Drian and Bartolone visited French soldiers stationed at a Malian airbase in Gao as part of Operation Serval, launched on January 11 to liberate northern Mali from a motley group of jihadists and Tuareg rebels.
But as residents of this city situated on the eastern bank of the Niger River are quick to note, not a single Malian politician of national stature has made the 1,000-kilometre trip from the capital of Bamako up to Gao.
Moussa, a Gao resident who owns a transportation company, echoes the sentiments of many when he accuses the country’s national politicians of cowardice – during and after the rebel occupation.
“We need to get rid of all of them”
"Since the first day of the occupation, we haven't even seen one political party come here to Gao,” said Moussa, who was a member of a major national political party before the occupation, but has since given up his party membership. “We need to get rid of all of them and rely on young people, the only ones capable of reviving Mali's political system."
As France prepares for a drawdown of troops from Mali, the country’s transitional authorities hope to hold elections by July. But few analysts believe this West African nation is ready to hold elections within four months.
"We have nothing. We can't provide for our bare necessities here in Gao,” said Moussa Boureima Yoro, a member of a local militia that banded together to try to patrol the city. “How can they ask us to go and vote? For who? And what for? It's clear we represent nothing in Malian politics. So we, alone, need to make our own destiny and transform this town."
Although Gao has been liberated by French troops, there have been sporadic attacks by Islamist militants in the city. Gao was the first Malian city to be attacked by a suicide bomber on February 8, a style of attack that was previously unknown in Mali and which has now been repeated in several other northern cities. The city has witnessed a number of attacks by extremists, who cross the Niger River and manage to infiltrate the city despite the presence of French and Malian troops.