Wednesday March 21st: Renegade soldiers from the Malian military launched a coup d’état and attacked several locations in the capital city of Bamako, including the presidential palace, state television, and military barracks.
Thursday March 22nd: The soldiers declared they had overthrown the government of President Amadou Toumani Touré, forcing him into hiding, and imposed a nationwide
Dr. Karamoko Tounkara
curfew. Our onsite director, Dr. Tounkara Karamoko (Kara), texted me in the morning to let me know that he and the rest of our staff were fine. Kara informed me that all staff members were staying home for the day in order to be safe and to comply with the curfew.
Monday March 26th: Kara reported that during the weekend, few people had ventured outside of their homes and market activity had been very slow. As Monday was a national holiday, the people of Bamako continued to stay home in order to be safe.
Tuesday March 27th: Borders were opened, the curfew was lifted, and this was the first day that work resumed since the coup the week prior. It was a fairly typical Tuesday in Bamako: shops were open and filled with people, traffic downtown was heavy, and our GAIA staff and Malian collaborators were all hard at work: I received emails and updates from Ben Aboubacar (GAIA’s HIV consultant), Kotou Sangare (laboratory technician at the University of Bamako), and of course Kara. They all reported that the flow of activities at GAIA VF slowed down for a couple days but was never interrupted! Doctors at the Hope Center Clinic remained on call, the lab work related to our Merck IISP-sponsored study is ongoing, and Kara was already back on schedule, driving from one end of Bamako to the other to meet with our collaborators. From their reports, it sounds like everyone is safe!
April: In the North of Mali, Tuareg rebels who have been seeking independence, overran Kidal, attacked Gao and by Monday, April 2nd, had overtaken Timbuktu. A good source of information about events in Northern Mali can be obtained by clicking here.
Meanwhile, Karamoko Tounkara, M.D., our director in Bamako, and consultant Ben Aboubacar, M.D., report that all is calm in Bamako, the capital of Mali. Habib Koite, reached by text message, told us that there was nothing to worry about. Our patients and staff our safe, as are GAIA VF’s collaborating scientists.
We are in touch with our director daily. We watch, we listen, we read, and we weep. This is the last thing that an impoverished country like Mali needs – more disruption, disarray, and disorder. If Mali falls to a more conservative regime, and humanitarian aid is impeded, the lives of thousands of people who are now living just at subsistence level, will be at risk.
We remain committed to supporting humanitarian aid to Mali. We believe that we, as a people, must reach out to our Malian colleagues and sustain hope. We must encourage them, and buttress their optimism that peace and prosperity will be restored. And we must must work hard to convince goverments here and overseas that Mali is worth saving.