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Lauded as hero in Paris attack, Malian man made French citizen
20 January 2015 - The Malian grocery worker hailed as a hero for saving hostages' lives when an Islamist militant attacked a kosher supermarket in Paris this month was made a French citizen on Tuesday. Lassana Bathily, 24, was joined by French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve and Prime Minister Manuel Valls in a packed naturalization ceremony. 'I am so happy to get dual nationality,' said a smiling Bathily, who also received a medal for his actions. (more)

Mali: Custodian of Timbuktu's literary past looks to digital future
16 September 2014 - When extremists occupied Timbuktu, its 'blasphemous' manuscripts were their first target. But many are now preserved and digitized in homes -- and, families believe, protecting them in return. 'Here you have about 3,000 manuscripts dating from the ninth to the 19th century,' says Abdulwadid Abderrahim Haidara as he opens a rusty metal chest. 'Some are short -- three, four pages -- some run to a hundred pages. The subjects are religion, astrology, history, jurisprudence, and medicine. There are also some accounting ledgers written by gold and salt traders. I really need to get them on to a memory stick or a CD.' (more)

Peace talks aim at restoring calm in Mali's north
16 July 2014 - International negotiators, Malian officials, and Tuareg separatists are holding peace talks aimed at restoring stability in northern Mali. The Algerian capital is hosting peace talks, which started Wednesday, involving Malian government representatives, six Tuareg groups, and officials from the UN African Union, regional group ECOWAS and the European Union. (more)

Rebuilding Timbuktu: UN agency working with Mali to 'keep culture significant'
27 June 2014 - Timbuktu was an economic, intellectual, and spiritual capital and a centre for the propagation of Islam throughout Africa during the city's golden age in the 15th and 16th centuries. According to UNESCO, three mosques and 16 mausoleums are part of the fabled city that was once home to 100,000 inhabitants. In March, local masons working under the supervision of Imam of Djingareyber, and with support from UNESCO and the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), which is mandated in part to support the Government in cultural preservation, laid the first earthen brick to reconstruct two of the city's ancient mausoleums. 'It is not only about rebuilding stones. It is also about keeping culture significant, 'UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Representative to Mali, Lazare Eloudou Assomo, said. Reconstructing the site has already contributed to 'a kind of environment to foster peace reconciliation and social cohesion'. (more)

Mali rebel groups sign truce accord in Algeria
10 June 2014 - Three northern Malian rebel groups signed an accord in Algiers pledging to work for peace through inclusive talks in Mali. The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, the High Council for the Unity of Azawad, and the Arab Movement of Azawad signed the Algiers Declaration pledging their 'good faith' to strengthen the process of reconciliation through dialogue, said an Algerian government statement Tuesday. Since 2012, when Tuareg rebel groups seized control of northern Mali, or Azawad as they call it, the country has been in turmoil. (more)

Mali's first gold refinery to start in mid-2015: shareholder
9 June 2014 - Mali's first gold refinery should start production in mid-2015, its main shareholder said on Monday, after construction work was delayed by two years during political turmoil sparked by a northern Tuareg uprising. The internationally certified refinery is expected to handle ore produced in Mali -- the third-largest producer in sub-Saharan Africa behind South Africa and Ghana -- as well as from other neighbouring countries. Operations could be expanded to include other metals such as silver and palladium. (more)

Tuareg rebels in north Mali sign ceasefire - African Union
24 May 2014 - The African Union says ethnic Tuareg separatist rebels have signed a ceasefire deal after having pushed the Malian army out of Kidal. In a statement released late Friday, the African Union said that the agreement came following talks and a visit by Mauritania's President, the current AU chairman. (more)

Mali Tuareg separatists accept ceasefire agreement
23 May 2014 - Tuareg separatist groups in Mali on Friday accepted a ceasefire agreement with the government following clashes this week that threatened to plunged the country back into war. The agreement was reached following a meeting between the chairman of the African Union and separatist groups in northern Mali to discuss a permanent truce and the resumption of talks between the rebels and the government in Bamako. (more)

New tools, farmer training could revolutionize pesticide management in West Africa - UN
17 February 2014 - Field schools that train farmers in alternative methods of pest control have succeeded in nearly eliminating the use of toxic pesticides by a community of cotton growers in Mali, according to a new study out on 17 February based on a project led by the UN Food and Agriculture Agency (FAO). While only 34 per cent of all cotton-farmers in the area participated in the programme, pesticide use on all of Bla's cotton farms -- more than 4,300 households -- dropped a staggering 92 per cent. FAO's study further found that the move away from pesticide use had no negative impact on yields. (more)

Mali music festival returns after end of war
10 February 2014 - Long before Mali captured the global spotlight as an al-Qaida training ground where French soldiers had to intervene, the West African nation was celebrated for producing some of the biggest stars in world music. Now Salif Keita and other top Malian performers are trying to revitalize the country's music tourism with the return of the Festival on the Niger. The event, which ended Sunday, drew 19,000 people including Malians and Western tourists, said Mohamed Konate, a spokesman for the festival. Mali had long been a stable democracy where a moderate form of Islam was practiced until the jihadist takeover in 2012. (more)

Success of Maharishi's Programmes
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Mali: Polls show turn to optimism
21 April 2014 - The recent headline in AfricaFocus reported a quick turnaround in popular feeling in the northwest African country: 'In an Afrobarometer survey in December 2012, three-quarters of adult Malians were worried that the country was moving in ''the wrong direction''. At that time, in the depths of a profound national crisis, most Malians thought the future looked bleak. A year later, however, a follow-up survey reveals newfound hope in the future. By December 2013, two-thirds of all Malians now considered that the country is headed in ''the right direction''.' In between, the stress-reducing Transcendental Meditation technique and other peace-creating technologies of consciousness were being applied as a means to increase coherence, harmony, and progress in the nation. (more)

Offering the programmes of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in Mali
28 June 2009 - Through the inspiration of an individual from Mali who recently learnt the Transcendental Meditation Technique, the programmes of the Global Country of World Peace are beginning to be offered in his country. (more)

Short Summaries of Top Stories

Roadside bombs kills 5 UN peacekeepers in Mali
19 September 2014 - A roadside bomb in northern Mali killed five UN peacekeepers and wounded several others on Thursday, a spokesman said of the latest in a string of deadly attacks on the force. Northern Mali fell under control of Tuareg separatists and then al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists following a military coup in 2012. A French-led intervention last year scattered the extremists, but some remain active in the countryside and there have been continued bursts of violence. (more)

UN: 4 peacekeepers killed in north Mali, 15 hurt
2 September 2014 - At least four UN peacekeepers were killed and 15 wounded when their convoy hit a mine in northern Mali on Tuesday, a spokesman said. The group of Chadian peacekeepers was returning from the embattled town of Kidal when they struck a mine about 20 miles (30 kilometres) outside the city, said Olivier Salgado, a spokesman for the force. Six of those hurt are seriously wounded, he said. Salgado did not speculate on who was behind the attack, the largest in months. But the al-Qaida group operating in the country recently has taken responsibility for several recent attacks on UN peacekeepers. Kidal is also the home of a simmering revolt by a Tuareg separatist movement. Northern Mali fell under control of Tuareg separatists and then al-Qaida-linked Islamic extremists following a military coup in 2012. A French-led intervention last year scattered the extremists, but some remain active and there have been continued bursts of violence. UN troops are now trying to stabilize the north, and peace talks have begun between the Malian government and Tuaregs, who maintain a heavy presence in Kidal and have pushed back against the authority of the Bamako-based government. Al-Qaida is not participating in those discussions. (more)

Tuareg separatists seize several towns in northern Mali
22 May 2014 - Tuareg separatists said on Thursday they had seized several towns in northern Mali after routing government forces in fighting that threatens to plunge the desert north back into war, but said they would respect calls for a ceasefire. The army had launched an offensive to retake control of the separatist stronghold of Kidal after clashes erupted while Prime Minister Moussa Mara was visiting the town on Saturday. Tuareg separatists repulsed the attempt on Wednesday and on Thursday said they had taken more northern towns without a fight after government troops either abandoned their positions and sought refuge at the camps of the UN peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA, or fled south. Mali was plunged into chaos in 2012 after Tuareg independence fighters teamed up with groups teamed up with groups linked to al Qaeda to seize the north following a coup in the capital. When they were sidelined by the better-equipped Islamists, the separatists broke with their allies. A French-led military operation then drove the Islamists back last year. Neighbouring Burkina Faso's foreign minister, Djibril Bassolé, who has served as a mediator in Mali, told French radio RFI: 'There is a danger that the same phenomenon as in 2012 can happen again.' (more)

Malian separatist rebels end ceasefire after clashes
29 November 2013 - Separatist Tuareg rebels said on Friday they were ending a five-month-old ceasefire with Mali's government and taking up arms following violence in the northern city of Kidal. The declaration came a day after Malian troops clashed with stone-throwing protesters who blocked a visit by the prime minister to the city, a northern rebel stronghold. Several demonstrators were wounded but there were conflicting accounts of how the incident started. 'The political and military wings of the Azawad (MNLA, MAA and HCUA) declare the lifting of the ceasefire with the central government in Bamako,' said a statement by Attaye Ag Mohamed, one of the founders of the MNLA groups. 'All our military positions are on alert,' he added. (more)

Mali Tuareg Separatists suspend participation in peace process
26 September 2013 - Tuareg separatists pulled out of a peace agreement with the Mali government on Thursday, accusing Bamako of not respecting its commitments to a truce reached in June. The ceasefire in the West African nation allowed Mali's government and military to return to the separatists' northern stronghold of Kidal and enabled national elections to take place in July and August. 'Following multiple difficulties implementing the Ouagadougou agreement, mainly caused by non-observance by the Malian government of its commitments, (we have) decided to suspend participation in the structures of implementation of the agreement,' three organizations representing the Tuaregs said. They did not specify the difficulties. (more)

Ethnic clashes erupt in northern Mali town before vote
19 July 2013 - Malian troops deployed in the northern town of Kidal on Friday after attacks by light-skinned Tuareg separatists on black residents killed at least one, a week before elections meant to unify the fractured nation. Residents said Tuareg youths took the streets of the desert town late on Thursday to target black African residents, firing shots and burning vehicles. Calm was briefly restored after UN peacekeepers made some arrests, but violence resumed on Friday. A presidential election on 28 July is supposed to seal a democratic transition after a March 2012 coup that led to the 10-month seizure of northern Mali by al Qaeda-linked rebels. But logistical problems and violence in Kidal and other northern towns could disrupt the vote. France, which sent more than 4,000 troops to Mali to destroy the Islamist enclave, is pushing for the election to go ahead as it seeks to wind down its military presence, despite concerns over the West African country's readiness. (more)

Mali's rush to post-war election raises fears of further strife
13 July 2013 - Mali's presidential hopefuls kicked off campaigning this week for a 28 July election intended to draw a line under a coup and an Islamist uprising, despite concerns that a rushed poll may sow the seeds of future strife. Western donors hope the election will lay the foundations for rebuilding a nation once seen as a model of democracy in turbulent West Africa. Yet millions of voting cards must still be dispatched across a vast territory twice the size of France. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by the conflict and many more are still missing from outdated voter lists. 'The election risks being marred by such technical shortcomings, and with such a low rate of participation, that it could result in the election of a president deprived of the legitimacy necessary to lead a confused and weakened country back to stability and development,' think tank International Crisis Group said. OSIWA, a foundation funded by financier George Soros to promote democracy in West Africa, echoed these concerns. (more)

UN assesses damage to Timbuktu manuscripts
2 July 2013 - Islamic radicals destroyed 4,000 ancient manuscripts during their occupation of Timbuktu, according to the findings of a United Nations expert mission. The damage amounts to about one-tenth of the manuscripts that were being stored in the fabled northern city. The majority of the documents dating back to the 13th century were saved by the devotion of the library's Malian custodians, who spirited them out of the occupied city in rice sacks, on donkey carts, by motorcycle, by boat, and by 4-by-4. Authorities had previously estimated that less than 5 per cent of the library's holdings had been destroyed, and the current estimate is significantly higher. David Stehl, programme specialist in the cultural section of UNESCO, said the expert mission also had identified additional mausoleums believed to have been damaged or destroyed during the occupation, raising the total from nine to 16. (more)

Malian army fights Tuareg rebels; unofficial truce over
5 June 2013 - Government troops seized a village in northern Mali after heavy fighting with Tuareg separatists on Wednesday and advanced towards the town of Kidal, the rebels' last stronghold, the army said. Wednesday's fighting ended months of undeclared ceasefire between the army and the MNLA separatists, who took back part of northern Mali from Islamist insurgents driven out by a French-led military offensive launched in January. The French campaign broke a 10-month occupation of northern Mali by al Qaeda-linked groups, but left the Tuareg rebels in control of Kidal, rekindling an earlier conflict that now threatens to explode as the government seeks to reunify Mali. The interim government accused the MNLA of attacking and seizing non-Tuaregs in Kidal on Monday, and in a statement late on Wednesday said the offensive was a response to those abuses. (more)

AQIM warns France, allies face threat after Mali
18 April 2013 - Al-Qaida's North Africa branch on Thursday threatened to seek revenge against all countries taking part in the French-led war in Mali, warning that no one who has participated will be safe. 'No one who participated in this ferocious attack on our people in north Mali will be safe,' it said. The group said it was with 'our brothers and people in Mali in one trench, until we liberate it from the crusader French operation or perish before our children, women, and brothers.' The group also used the forum to reach out to possible recruits, saying: 'We need all the specialties like such as medicine, chemistry, electronics, and manufacturing arms' among other skill sets. AQIM operates 7,000-kilometre (4,300-mile)-long strip across the Sahel region, including not only Mali, but also portions of Mauritania, Niger, Algeria, Libya, Burkina Faso, and Chad. (more)


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