When Security Gets on Your Nerves

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“No untroubled day has ever dawned for me.” ~ Seneca

In our position in Mali we are advised to monitor news sources regularly. We have been informed that Humanitarian workers are prime soft targets in Mali right now. Great; we are not paranoid about it, but we certainly no longer toss that word around in conversations with strangers here.

So, with the rigidity of a good fundamentalist, we crack open the news most mornings, and take a peek most evenings for security updates, at least when I feel like it. Sometimes I just do not feel like it.  Honestly, I get sick and tired of reading and scanning twitter and news-feeds for the latest happenings in Mali. But I have to, am supposed to, am expected to.

I was out to the village yesterday and came home very pumped about the amazing work of our women.

Two community gardens are ready to be reset up immediately. The Grandmother Literacy class’s drip irrigated garden project is an absolute success story. The Literacy group consists of fifteen women (feeding 150 family members) who have faithfully fed their families with drip irrigated vegetable gardening through four drought seasons so far. They understand the process, and no longer require MOPD supervision. They are independent now. What is more, a Swiss NGO agency arrived last year and the Swiss lady in charge came to see MOPD’s drip irrigated vegetable gardens. Our ladies taught the Swiss NGO and her Malian staff everything: how to make free fertilizer, how and why to do ground cover, how to prepare plots, and how to set up the drip kit gardens. Best part of all, we were not even around. The Swiss took hundreds of photos of the process, we were told. These are amazing accomplishments by these women even in our absence last fall. Word is spreading without us now, and we could not be prouder of them.

Yet, after this high, I come home to bad news reports. News is bad news, the worst of all the things happening around us. Why is that? What about all the good things?

However, it is true, Mali did have another difficult day yesterday. Three Peacekeepers killed and twenty wounded in a rocket attack on the Peacekeepers’ base in Kidal.

To the east of us, Burkina Faso took precautionary measures and sealed up its borders on Friday, until Tuesday morning, for Sunday’s elections. A curfew is imposed as well. We are praying for smooth transitions there.  However, that border closure affects our security plan, at least for a few days.

Also, the Burkina Faso authorities captured thirteen terrorists just across the border from us here. The group consisted of Burkina, Malian, and Tuareg people who had guns and bomb making supplies.

On the radio yesterday they were talking about all the theft in Southern Mali as Ivorian criminals cross the borders into Mali.  The criminals are shaking down Malians for money and threatening to beat more family members if they don’t cough up enough dough. These issues have reached as far north as Loulouni, about 50 km south of us on the highway to the Ivory Coast Border. An Ivorian we know lamented that there are a lot of carjackings in northern of Ivory Coast right now. Honestly, this was the first I had heard of Ivorian crime in Mali. So I asked my friend E. Coulibaly about it yesterday. He was fully aware, but I had missed it. Probably because there have already been days I got fed up reading.

Coulibaly  said that Allison Ouattera, the President of Ivory Coast, has been putting pressure on the thieves down on the coast in Abidjan area, so a flood of crooks have been driven out of Abidjan and are going north and hitting people up there instead, and of course the police presence is smaller in the north. It’s still basically very lawless in Northern Ivory Coast; has been for the last ten years.

During the 2012 Coup in Mali, the American Peace Corps withdrew all volunteer workers. They had reestablished their work in 2015, placing workers in only the Sikasso region, where I am. Twitter rumors the last few days have been that Peace Corps pulled in all 35 volunteers from their placements in surrounding villages and are sending them out of Mali.  Took me a while verify this, but sure enough, the Peace Corps website says they temporarily suspended work in Mali, again.

Anyway, this all hits a little close to home here. In our position and situation, we may be advised to monitor news sources, morning and evening for security updates. But do you see why I get tired of reading sometimes? If you dwell on this every day a real paranoia can set in.

Everything from the west, the western news, western family, that overarching passion of westerners to be comfy, secure, and safe, keeps screaming come home, go home, better yet, don’t bother going at all…. Ever.

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I am tired of that voice, that message from the news today is frankly pissing me off.

So, shut up!

Just for today, be quiet.

Mr Voice….. I’m not listening to you today.

The invisible Humanitarian is wrapping himself in his magic cape. I am invisible now, you can’t see me. I have taken the corners of my cape and pushed them into both ears too, so I can’t hear you Mr News.

Radio silence till Monday.

Maybe Seneca was responding to the news in his day too, it is always bad news.

“No untroubled day has ever dawned for me” Seneca

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