Tanks, mines, poverty strangle Mali town

2013-02-06 12:36

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Douentza - Douentza's Islamist occupiers have fled, but the central Malian town is still effectively under siege, its residents cut off from the outside world by tanks, land mines and poverty.

Douentza was the southernmost town held by the insurgents for much of the 10 months they controlled northern Mali, until they inched a step closer to the capital by seizing nearby Konna on 10 January - provoking a lightning French intervention that has now pushed them back to the remote northeast.

But life in Douentza, recaptured by French and Malian troops on 21 January, has still not returned to normal.

The Malian army's rusty Soviet-designed T55 tanks and camouflage pick-ups are lined up at the edge of town, their guns pointed toward the surrounding bush, where according to a Malian officer Islamist fighters are still present.

Roads in and out of the town are littered with land mines, the officer says.

Two Malian soldiers were killed last week when their vehicle drove over a mine between Douentza and Hombori, 150km to the northeast, and improvised explosive devices have been found on the same road, according to military sources.

"We're living under embargo. We can't move," says Ousmane Koita, owner of the La Falaise hotel, which has been closed for 10 months.

The armed extremists set up camp in the the high school, the teachers' academy and the N'Douldi Hotel, all of which were ripped open by missile strikes and are scattered with ammunition that has exploded in the stifling heat.

Douentza used to be a tourist town, a jumping-off point for Westerners trekking atop the sheer cliffs of the Bandiagara Escarpment and visiting the remote villages scattered around them.

Completely paralysed

The area is home to the Dogon, one of the most insular peoples on Earth, famous for their elaborate mask dances, their animist religious traditions and their intricately carved wooden doors.

"There's enough to eat for now, but commerce has been almost completely paralysed. You can leave the town but not come back," says Koita.

At the market, where fruits and vegetables are rare, men sit idly in the sandy square, with no jobs to go to and no way to earn money.

Beneath a stand made of four tree trunks with a straw roof, Amadou Traore sells the few potatoes available, which have gone up more than 50% in price since the start of the crisis, to 700 CFA francs per kilogramme.

"We can't get potatoes because the road is cut off. For almost a month now we haven't made any money," he says.

Next door, at a shipping container transformed into a petrol station, Ousmane Omgoiba says he was on the verge of running out of fuel until the Malian army brought a new tank several days ago.

"The shipment saved us a little," he said, as a dump truck passed by, the words "Every soul will know death" written on its side in white.

The town had more than 25 000 people before the conflict erupted in the wake of a military coup on 22 March, which opened a power vacuum that enabled the Islamist militants to seize Mali's vast desert north.

But at least 10 000 people have fled since the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao) seized the town - part of at least 377 000 Malians who have fled their homes, according to the United Nations.

- SAPA
Read more on:    un  |  mujao  |  mali  |  west africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
SPONSORED CONTENT
When is a mountain more than just a mountain? 2014-12-18 07:26

When it’s an adventure! A group of Old Mutual employees found out how much is enough courage, endurance and camaraderie to take on Africa's highest peak.

/News
 

Five wrapping hacks you have to know before Christmas

Five gift wrapping hacks that will save Christmas for you!

 
 

I love summer.24

Sexiest Instagrams of 2014
Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!
Summer Survey!
Great ideas for the best summer sandwiches!

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

30% off the bestselling books

Save big on the most captivating reads of 2014. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

It is hard to keep some sort of balance when the natural rhythm has flown out the window. The best thing to do is try not to keep...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.