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Posts Tagged ‘Qaddafi’

Mali Malaise

June 13th, 2012 No comments

Mali’s deposed president Amadou Toumani Touré, well known for his close ties to Qaddafi, was apparently in bed with another one of the world’s late dictators, Kim Jong-il. I happened upon this in a new area of Bamako at the end of a lengthy Chinese-built bridge. There I found an area out of character with the rest of the city called Army Square with a cluster of monuments that looked more at home in Pyongyang than Mali’s capital. Upon doing just a little digging, sure enough, they were built by a North Korean front company called Baikho S.a.r.l. that was doing projects for ATT right up until the March 22 coup d’etat. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

I have an article out today on CNN.com’s World page from my trip to Sévaré.

Barcelona- Wanted to post some more images from my two weeks in the broken, beautiful Malian republic. I’ve noticed that there seem to be two black-or-white schools of thought on Mali: it is painted as either not nearly as bad as some media reports and politicos have been suggesting or as Mahamedou Issoufou, president of neighboring Niger has recently stated “It [Mali] is not just a threat for the region, but the world.” The ‘West African Afghanistan’ meme has thus been circumambulating the web. There are a couple of problems with the writing and reporting situation on Mali.

One is that the majority of reports about this troubled state are written by those who are either not in the country at present, or as I suspect, certain think-tank types who have never been there in the first place, instead relying on a mix of regional state media sites and rebel statements via their own sites to inform them of what is going on there.

The other issue is that it seemed to me after going to the trouble and expense of actually going to Mali, the CNRDRE junta does not want journos in their midst whatsoever.  My first day in Bamako I went out cautiously with a very small camera to try and feel out the city. I approached what appeared to be a small pro-junta gathering on an open, public street in front of the National Assembly.

Before I could even raise my lens to take a single frame, a pair of plain clothes Sanogo guys promptly escorted me out of the area, telling me that one cannot simply begin shooting photos in Mali of anything remotely political in nature without first seeking permission. Doesn’t sound like the echo of a functioning democracy, does it? According to a good many Bamakois, not only is the north lost, but no one knows when the democratic process will return to Mali.

In sum, Mali is simply a difficult place to both write about and report from.

The FT’s Xan Rice did a nice little article about the weeping Mali billboards dotting Bamako’s roadsides. I featured one of them in my Christian Science Monitor piece which is linked two posts down from this one. Oh and you are interested here and hereare links (en Français)  about the North Korean firm that was (or is?) active in Mali under ATT. Wonder if Sanogo will maintain ties with Kim Jong-un?

In unrelated business I’m cited by UPI in their article “U.S. risks getting dragged into Yemen war” stemming from my Fahd al-Quso piece in Asia Times Online last month.

This is a bronze of General Abdoulaye Soumaré courtesy of Pyongyang. Soumaré was Mali’s first chief of army staff after independence from France in 1960. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Hideous, unfinished LAICO (Libyan Arab Investment Corporation a.k.a. Qaddafi clan) hotel on the northern bank of the Niger River, Bamako. The hotel apparently was being built by a Chinese outfit but the project appeared to be stalled for quite some time. Not surprising considering Qaddafi met his maker outside Sirte last year and ATT is in exile. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

The Statue of the Victory. Not sure what victory it is referring to but it caught my eye because of the Kalashnikov. I never stop being fascinated by the concept of the Kalashnikov-once a symbol of a creeping Red Army-as an icon of Third World liberation. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Everything that you take for granted in the West, even the smallest thing, is a challenge of some sort in Mali. Everyday when walking around the city I found myself leaping over these open sewers while taking the shortest routes from A to B. Here, my taxi driver jumps an especially big one after leaving the cab to relieve himself. The roadsides make convenient commodes. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Trucks heading south after getting through the checkpoint outside Sévaré. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

 

Heat

May 28th, 2012 No comments

A lone fisherman plies the River Niger at dusk with the neo-Sudanic Banque Centrale des États de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (BCEAO) tower looming in the background. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Bamako's central market. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Bamako- Between a Lisbon airport strike, a Tunis one, and other obstacles, I finally reached the Malian capital a few nights ago. It’s hot as blazes here and quite friendly overall. A low lying city of red, dusty sprawl, I decided to take a long walk around the central market and the Saudi-financed grand mosque yesterday to try and get a feel for the street. I was met with overt hostility in the courtyard of the masjid which wasn’t terribly surprising. I think I’d read before leaving that visitors were not particularly welcome in Malian mosques. I figured it might have to do with the legacy of French colonialism But I thought I’d try it anyhow.

“Musulman? Non? Interdit!!” So much for that.

I stumbled back into the street as touts harked their trinkets and treasures at me. I noted a pair of Chinese women casually shopping as if they were in Flushing, Queens. They didn’t seem to be of any interest to local parties in the way that I was. One of the first things I noticed on the way in from the airport was a shiny car dealership called Great Wall Motors.

Mon chien Malien. Time to take a break from the omnipotent sun. Sleep time. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

Across the road there was some sort of small pro-junta gathering in front of the national assembly. Within the span of 10 minutes I managed to stir up a bit more ire. A couple of plainclothes men approached me with what I supposed were stern gazes behind their wrap around sunglasses. They instructed me to carry proper journo identification at all times if I’m to delve into the local political scene. With that, I toured the serpentine back lanes of the market to try and arouse slightly less suspicion. I ended the day cooling  my heels in the shade on the earthen banks of the Niger and walking over Martyr’s bridge back to the guesthouse in Badalabougou.

Meanwhile the supposedly secular MNLA rebels appear to have let their agenda become subordinate to Ansar Eddine’s according to an AFP report. If indeed the case, then that about does it for my idea of meeting the MNLA I suppose… In other news I was quoted on cnn.com while en route to Bamako in their report “Impoverished, fractured Mali struggles to return to civilian rule.”

Studying a parched koran in front of the grand mosque in Bamako. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

"Throw me the idol, I throw you the whip! No time to argue!" Traditional Malian wood carving in the garden outside my room. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

A Qaddafi sticker in Bamako, Mali. Want to look into 'The Guide's' legacy here. Note the psychedelic Kalashnikov motif. Nice touch. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

The Cathedral of Bamako. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

A visage of Thomas Sankara, "Africa's Che." Sankara was a radical anti-imperialist and Burkinabe nationalist who was responsible for changing the name of the country from the colonial Upper Volta to the indigenous Burkino Faso. He was subsequently killed in a 1987 coup after particular interests saw him as a direct threat to their inherited power. It seems Che Guevara himself is still a popular figure here. His decals adorned about 1/4 of the city's minibuses yesterday. ©2012 Derek Henry Flood

May Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot

December 31st, 2011 No comments

Mu'ammar al-Qaddafi got his backside kicked by Spinal Tap on The Simpsons two decades ago. Funny how his Matt Groening rendering looks a lot like Libyan revolutionary street art.

New York- Watching my old Simpsons DVDs the other day, I caught this quick gag where a tout tries to sell Bart a Spinal Tap t-shirt where the band is kicking Mu’ammar al-Qaddafi’s backside. This art presaged that of the Libyan revolutionaries by a good nearly 20 years. The Qaddafi shirt appears in The Otto Show which was broadcast in April 1992 at the end of the show’s third season.

2011 was one crazy roller coaster of a year. I want to thank some of the people that made the year both possible and memorable: Faisal my driver in eastern Libya who took me as far as Ras Lanuf and invited this strange Westerner who didn’t eat meat into his home for lunch, watching the circus that was Libyan state TV, and letting play with his Kalashnikov which he procured in case things got really bad. My old San Diego friend Brad, a reformed Orange County punker turned family man/junior diplomat at U.S. Embassy Bahrain and Nabeel Rajab for giving me his thoughts on the grim human rights situation in his besieged country. In Addis Ababa I want to thank my friend Carlo who introduced me to the last Italians in Ethiopia at the Buffet de le Gare near the defunct railroad station. Sorry we never did the trip to the Somali border mio amico! Next time… Khalid and the very hospitable Amazight (Berber) rebels in Nalut in Libya’s Jebel Nafusa. I hope the war really is over for you. Kenny in Barcelona who rescued me on the way back from North Africa when there was no place to stay in the city on a hot summer night. And Kostas and Veronika at Caveland on Santorini, I hope to come again! I miss those pups. Caroline and all the staff at the American Embassy in Paris closed out my year very nicely and for that I am grateful.

No one could have ever predicted all of the things that took place this last year. The world began to reorder itself in a messy and violent way. The status quo became unbearable to the point of both peaceful and armed revolt. The drone war escalated, the neocons are trying to stage an awkward comeback and a host of other negative trends mean we are in no way out of the proverbial woods. But people were and are willing to fight and die for their freedom which came at a terrible cost in Libya (and continues unabated in Syria). Plenty of dictators-yes I’m talking about you Central Asia-and monarchs-GCC, Jordan, Morocco-still stand around the world. The clock is ticking for Bashar al-Assad. Plenty of issues seek to be ironed out in 2012 in the European Union to say the least. God only knows where the next crisis will arise in the coming year and anyone who says they do is likely a fool.

Happy New Year from TWD!!!

Ray in Martyr’s Square!

October 22nd, 2011 No comments

Thira- Today is my last day stranded in paradise here in Santorini. It has been a fantastic couple of weeks living in a volcanic cave at the aptly named Caveland in Karterados village. Soon I will be in the humdrum of an occupied Wall Street in Manhattan. My friend @RaymondPagnucco has a rocking clip today on CNN’s iReport from Martyr’s Square in Tripoli.

Violence in Libya and Pakistan

October 21st, 2011 No comments

Women in Benghazi demonstrate on March 9, 2011 for information on their male relatives who never made it out of Tripoli's Abu Salim prison alive following a massacre in June 1996. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Thira- I have no two new articles out today. I felt compelled to write something on the ignominious death of Qaddafi in Sirte yesterday. Funnily I was actually going to do a piece on the unrest here in Greece if solely for the reason I have been stuck here longer than I planned. There was even a demonstration here on the island yesterday and rubbish is spilling out into the streets as part of the uprising. But Qaddafi was as dramatic in death as he was in life and his killing carried the day in the news cycle. I balanced it out with a very underreported story out of Pakistani Balochistan. The Shia Hazara minority have been being slaughtered by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi militants for years now but there has been a huge spike in violence in recent months and I felt the topic was worthy of more attention. The common thread between the two stories is the terrible violence that takes place in a supposedly pacifying world. Qaddafi suffered a very public, humiliating death while the Hazaras of Pakistan are lucky to have their suffering mentioned in the Pakistani media itself.

“Down, down, down Qaddafi!”-Qaddafi’s Last Moments

October 20th, 2011 No comments


Thira- Looks like the last chapter in the Guide’s Green Book has finally been written. Wish that I was in Sirte right now. Instead I am in a paralyzed Greece. My buddy @RaymondPagnucco arrived in Tripoli this morning to finish a documentary about Libya that will be like no other. There won’t another cameraman there with the same story.

The Long Night

July 24th, 2011 No comments

An ageing Soviet tank is ensonced near a rebel position on an outcropping on the outskirts of Nalut where it is aimed at a Qaddafist camp in the desert below. The Nalut-based rebels say they are under armed and under funded and must save their munitions until they absolutely must be used to defend the city. The tanks they have have been tagged with the letter N to let NATO warplanes know they are pro-NATO rebel vehicles so as not to accidentally target them. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Nalut- Last night a cool wind came sweeping up from the Sahara and brought the temperature here in the western Jebel Nafusa way down. It also was a miraculous night to observe the brilliant cosmos above. Nalut really wasn’t such a bad place it seemed for the first moment. With the power out in town, the lack of light pollution brought out the sky’s qualities that rest deep in one’s imagination. Then the Grad rockets started coming. Thump….thump….thump! The windows of the journo flophouse began to steadily shake. One moment I’m watching an episode from the 22nd season of the Simpsons on my ipod relishing in the forgiving night air for one, the next I’m running around the courtyard in boxers and flip flops trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Just when I was starting to get comfortable. Damn Qaddafi…The Brotherly Leaderly Guide or whatever the hell he calls himself these days is more than just a ranting kook. He is embodying the worst qualities of an African or Arab dictator with lots of cash and weapons. His army which I suppose is teetering somewhere between state and non-state actor as a number of world powers have effectively de-listed his government as they have recognized the TNC.

So I went back to bed. And then the Grad shells came ‘hailing’ down through the gorgeous night sky once again. And again. When the last of the explosions stopped around 8am, I walked out of the flophouse with all my gear only to see that the whole town, well the men of fighting age who have stayed behind, were all huddling outside as if scurrying from the tremors of an earthquake. Hundreds of them lining the winding roads of this forsaken little place. Should I stay or should I go? Well I’ll see what happens tonight I suppose. Most journos blaze past this town looking for some frontline glory perhaps, or the so-called ‘meat of the story’ but if you turn over a few rocks, there is actually a hell of a lot going on here and if bravado is your angle well it has a healthy dose of danger as well. All sorts of interesting machinations with Qataris, Emiratis, rumors beyond Tunisian acquiescence to outright involvement etc. But not a scene one should or can get to relaxed in.

An Amazight fighter truck speeds towards the Wazin border post. Whizzing techincals are about 1/3 of the traffic on a day like today. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

Categories: Libya Tags: , , , ,

The Honeymoon (in Libya) Is Over

March 11th, 2011 No comments

Benghazi- Things are looking a bit bleak from here today. The Qaddaf’s are now making a serious push east while Seif is blabbing about never surrendering and never giving up the country. The rebels are backpedaling in high gear out of the Ras Lanuf area and will have to seriously reassess their logistics and casualties in Brega. Without Western intervention, it’s beginning to look like the rebels will be toast on the highway if they don’t get their act together or get some serious, committed external support. I was wondering if Idriss Déby’s Chad, Qaddafi’s long-time regional nemesis, might help them out but I haven’t heard anything. Obama and NATO/EU are still talking while people here are ready to lay their lives on the line.

As the really nice guy who gave me a ride home last night said: “We have gone half way. We cannot turn back now. We will never go back to Qaddafi.” He then gave me a beautiful woven scarf that he said was from one of his traditional Libyan clothing shops that are closed since the start of the war. Of his workers: “Those from Egypt have gone back there. Those from here are fighting down in Ras Lanuf.” Though many here in the east continue to scoff at the Guide’s and Seif ridiculous bravado, I’m seriously starting to wonder if the party in Benghazi is over. When I first arrived, there was a huge banner on the corniche that read: “No Intervention. We Can Do It [overthrow Q] On Our Own.” The other day I saw that banner laying in a crumpled pile.

Though each night in front of the courthouse, there continues to be a carnival atmosphere that often balloons into the thousands, if Q’s crew can keep pushing along the Gulf of Sirte, can the rebels adequately defend their de facto capital? Rather than the old fashioned multi-front war that’s going on now, this could really turn into an asymmetric insurgency fairly quickly.  If the guys hadn’t been wasting so much ammo in needless displays of machismo the last few weeks, I might not be so worried. The funny thing is I’m now quite sure that it is because of the very presence of so many journalists here coupled with the lack of free expression that has existed for decades, that has caused the rebels to blow so much smoke into the sky. I often wonder if not a single camera was there, would they be wasting all of this gunpowder? It’s sort of a silly tree-falls-in-the-forest question I suppose.

Yesterday I went for lunch at  my driver Faisal’s house and he pulled out a beat up old Kalashnikov he has stowed behind the couch for when the bad days come. Or for when the street crime becomes too much to bear. He told me that a friend of his gave it to him after the army barracks were trashed at the beginning of the revolt but that if one were to try and buy an AK now, the street price is nearly 3000 dinars (approx. $2000 USD if you go to the right money changer in the souq). I picked up a few Sanussi flags as souvenirs and wandered around meeting people and trying to make a few observations. Interestingly, as so many of the estimated 1.5 million Egyptians have fled the country, which make up much of its proletarian workforce, there are still loads of black Africans from the Sahel countries here. Frail looking women from Niger and Chad line the souq’s walkways vending tchotchkes and sit looking glum with blue tattooed tribal markings on their faces. I can only infer how pathetic the Sahelian economies must be to sit in a war-torn Arab city rather than even attempt to return home. That, or perhaps they simply can’t go home if their families are depending on remissions of Libyan cash or there is the social stigma of failure if one returns to the village prematurely as can be the case in South Asia.

Libyans demonstrate in front of the Benghazi courthouse for a western imposed no-fly zone over eastern Libya and for the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi as pro-government forces try to retake Ras Lanuf and Zawiya. ©2011 Derek Henry Flood

This outfit is just incredible. Is this eastern Libya's accidental Kosova moment? ©2011 Derek Henry Flood