March 22: Anniversary of the Mali Coup

I distinctly remember the emotions I felt that first day: nervous, scared, anxious, even excited? History in the making. I remember the fear that initially paralyzed me, followed by an undeniable peace as I remembered

Everything happens for a reason…

A year ago, on March 22, 2012, I was in Mali when there was a military coup. At the time, I, Elisabeth Jessop, was an intern for Yeah Samaké’s campaign in Bamako, Mali. Never did I imagine that I would experience a military coup.

I distinctly remember that day. I heard the gunshots in the streets as the military rushed to control the presidential palace and parts of the city.

I was downtown Bamako Wednesday afternoon, March 21, when I heard news of the military instability and potential coup. We headed home, unconcerned, but little did we know what would happen in the coming hours…it’s crazy how things can change so quickly.

On Wednesday morning, Malian military troops at their base camp in Kati (just outside of Bamako), were visited by a new Defense Minister. They quickly became upset because they have not received enough weapons, or food, to match the power and control of the nomadic Tuareg rebels in the North. Because of this situation, there are about 180,000 Malian refugees displaced and without food, shelter, and other basic needs. Many have died due to the situation in the north as well.

After the unfriendly visit of the Defense Minister, the military quickly seized the military base and then marched to the presidential palace in Bamako. They looted the place and riddled the cars and building with bullets. The coup was very spontaneous and not very well-planned, in my opinion. For a while, the whereabouts of President Amadou Toumani Touré (ATT) were unknown but they are now saying they have him and he is safe. Wednesday afternoon, Yeah was actually downtown finishing a meeting when he saw the military, led by Captain Amadou Aya Sanogo, surround the national TV station, ORTM. They shot into the air. Soon after, TV and radio stations were shut down and they took control. The military quickly surrounded the central parts of Bamako, and later the neighboring areas of Bamako as well, making it difficult to go anywhere. They quickly captured several other high-ranking government officials, looted their homes and other government buildings, as well as random local offices. All throughout the evening and throughout the next 2 days, we could hear residential gunfire as the military shot their guns in the air, making their presence known.

After we were moved to a safe, unknown location, Kyle Rehn, the other intern in Mali with me, and I were interviewed via Skype with KSL and were featured in this article: Coup in Mali hits close to home

On this day, I celebrate the return of democracy and a hopeful future for Mali.

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I am determined that Yeah Samaké will become the next President of Mali.

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