KÖNNEN PEACE-KORPS-FREIWILLIGE WIEDER IN MALI ARBEITEN? – Keep Peace Corps out of Mali? Only 5 PCVs are working currently

*) PCV = Peace Corps Volunteer
1. Kein Friedenskorps nach Mali
Bridges from Bamako – 10. August 2015

Von Bruce Whitehouse
Obwohl ich gehofft hatte, den Sommer über eine Pause von diesem Blog zu nehmen, habe ich die jüngsten Ereignisse in Mali mit einem wachsend alarmierten Gefühl beobachtet.
2. Wiedereröffnung des Peace Corps in Mali: 5 Freiwillige leisten den Eid
Bamako (L’Indépendant) – 26. September 2014

Die Residenz des Geschäftsträgers der amerikanischen Botschaft in Mali, Andrew Young, war am 25. September 2014 die Kulisse der Wiedereröffnung des Peace Corps. So wurden fünf Freiwillige aus den USA vor den Behörden vereidigt, um auf ihre Posten in der Region Sikasso zu gehen.


Foto (c) usembassy.gov: 80 New Peace Corps Volunteers were sworn-in on September 3, 2010. 3,000 PCVs have served in Mali since the program was established in 1971.
80 neue Friedenskorps-Freiwillige wurden am 3.September 2010 vereidigt. 3000 PCVs dienten in Mali seit der Einrichtung des Programms im Jahre 1971

1. Keep Peace Corps out of Mali
bridgesfrombamako – August 10, 2015
by Bruce Whitehouse
Although I’d hoped to take a break from this blog over the summer, I’ve been watching recent events in Mali with a growing sense of alarm. (…list of some recent notable terrorist incidents in southern parts of Mali)
[There is] a disturbing trend: the “bad guys” who, for the most part, once contained their nefarious activities to Mali’s unruly northern reaches–particularly the regions of Timbuktu, Gao, and Kidal–have penetrated into the rest of the country. Of Mali’s nine administrative regions plus the District of Bamako, each has now been the scene of at least one terrorist attack, and most have seen terrorist violence within the last 90 days.
The spread of this violence, directed both at military personnel and soft civilian targets, is particularly worrisome at this moment in time because the Peace Corps, the U.S. government-funded development agency, is getting ready to re-deploy Volunteers to Mali. Peace Corps had very sensibly pulled all its Volunteers out of the country in April 2012 in the wake of the army coup in Bamako and militant takeover of the north. Last year, it sent a very small number of “Peace Corps Response” volunteers to Mali (5, see #2) for short-term service; they completed their in-country training and were sent to their posts in November 2014. Now the agency is gearing up to send a much larger number of Volunteers to posts in southern Mali.
When I heard from the Peace Corps director that this move was in the offing early last year, I thought it was prudent. In light of the recent events outlined above, however, I think the risk of Peace Corps Volunteers becoming targets of terrorist activity in Mali is unacceptably high. As the list of violent incidents grows longer, and more and more unprecedented tragedies take place, Malian security forces have not been able to keep foreigners, UN personnel, or even their own troops safe from harm. PCVs should not be sent into this environment.
I write these words with a heavy heart. As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer whose service in Mali years ago is the origin of my career as an anthropologist and Africanist scholar, I wish every American who sought the opportunity could serve for two years in a peaceful, secure place like the Mali I remember. Unfortunately, as recent events illustrate, the Mali of today is no longer that place. Gone are the days when the threat of a kidnapping, shooting, or suicide bombing was unknown to Malians, or even known only to northerners. The threat is now pervasive and shows no sign of diminishing.
Thus far I have kept to myself my serious reservations about the return of PCVs to Mali. I know that Peace Corps staff and U.S. Government officials are strongly committed to the safety of Volunteers wherever they are posted, and they have always taken action to protect PCVs in Mali. Lately, however, I’ve begun to wonder: If we’ve misjudged the threat and a Volunteer is taken hostage, wounded, or killed in Mali, how could I justify this silence? There is no way I would want my own son or daughter to be exposed to the level of danger that currently prevails for Westerners throughout Mali.
We must engage with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. For me, this means recognizing the risks in Mali for what they have become. If any U.S. Government employee, PCV, trainee or trainee’s relative, or anyone living in Mali would like to weigh in on this question, I invite them to do so in the comments section below.

Postscript, 12 August: With tonight’s attack on the Sogoniko bus station in Bamako, the security situation in southern Mali edges closer to the abyss. As a PCV I spent countless hours at that station waiting for Sikasso-bound buses. Could anyone possibly make the case that Mali is a safer place for Americans today than it was in April 2012, when Peace Corps evacuated the country? Or is the primary distinction simply the fact that the U.S. supports the Malian regime now, and it didn’t back then?

Comments by PCVs:
11.08.2015: I am a Response volunteer currently serving in Mali. I am reading and commenting on this post as I stand on the side of a road in Sikasso. I have to say I agree with you. Although I feel safe tucked away in my village, anytime I leave the thought is always in the back of my mind that I could be a target. I’ve lived in Mali for four years and I originally served here from 2010-2012. I was evacuated. It was tragic. As much as we all want PC back in Mali, I’m afraid it is too soon. If something were to happen it would be a tragedy and leave a black mark on Mali and Peace Corps.
Marcy READ
12.08.2015: I’m currently serving as a Peace Corps Response Volunteer in Mali and served here from 2011-2012 when we were evacuated following the coup. I never once felt unsafe, nor do I feel unsafe now. Yes, there have been security threats in Mali, but volunteers are not the targets. Volunteers usually aren’t around the people who are targeted. I understand part of the concern is the possibility of something happening to a volunteer, but that could happen to a volunteer serving in any country where PC has a presence. There will always be concerns and there is always risk, especially when an attack happens. But it’s always a matter of “what if”? What if we’d done things differently? What if we’d made a different decision regarding security concerns? I’m not trying to downplay what’s been happening on the ground, but there will always be risk. One can be caught in the crossfire of a security situation and it wouldn’t be intentional. I know part of this opinion comes from me not wanting to be forced to leave again, but I really don’t think the concern should be so great. I feel safe in village and I feel just as safe when I travel in bigger cities in Mali. I don’t see the threat and hope this blog post doesn’t negatively affect PC’s movements in country. I understand where this post is coming from, but I also think it makes people worry more than necessary.
Chris READ
13.08.2015: Hi Bruce! First off let me say that I am a huge fan of this blog and it was, in fact, my primary source of information during the coup in 2012. I was a PCV back then and i am a Response volunteer serving in Mali right now. We all have, of course, been closely monitoring the situation here as it has evolved this year. And while there is undeniably a deterioration in the security situation, i must say that i fully agree with Marcy that it has not yet come to the point we were in back in April 2012.
First off i don’t think it fair to include three of the seven events in your list, namely the ones in Diema, Niono, and Sevare. PC/Mali’s operations are so far removed from all these places (precisely for the reason of security) that we might as well be in a different country. We always knew the situation was unstable in the north, but the majority of PCRVs posted in the south remain confident of their security there. Of the attacks that have occurred in areas where PC operates, with the exception of some, though not all, of the attacks that have occurred in Bamako, attacks have consistently been directed at Malian police, gendarme, and military. In other words, in the south, and again with the exception of Bamako, foreigners are far from being exclusively targeted.
In regards to Bamako, it is not the first time in our program’s 40+ year history that the city has descended into an unacceptable security situation. In 1990, as thousands of people were being killed in the events that led up to ATT’s coup, PCV travel to Bamako was strictly prohibited. There are and have been several PC programs around the world that have or still do restrict or prohibit travel to the capital or other major city or area of the country (including, of course, ours). I, therefore, see several steps that can be taken well ahead of resorting to suspension of the program, including placing severe limitation on volunteer’s movements (site and market town only, for example). Though our lives would get harder, they wouldn’t be any harder than the lives of our predecessors who served in Mali in the first two decades of the program.
Which brings me finally to our security at site which, i don’t believe even you have argued, is in any danger whatsoever. Honoring PC’s goal to serve the most underserved, volunteers in Mali are placed in rural villages often so disconnected from the rest of the country that many have been completely unaffected by the events of the last three years (and many, in fact, know almost nothing about them). Aside from the extreme unlikeliness of trouble finding us at site, the “bandit style” attacks that have occurred in the south (again, against police/military outposts only) would have a much harder time being effective in a rural village in Mali. As it so happens, I am the last PCV to have served in Diema and, having heard from my community about the circumstances of Leal’s kidnapping, I am confident that the chances of a similar attempt to kidnap me (an integrated PCV with the protection of the entire community) being successful are far inferior. And this is speaking of an area that is high risk, that PC has no intention of operating in anytime soon, and that in fact all US Gov’t personnel need written permission from the embassy to even pass by.
To sum up, i believe several steps can still be taken to secure our volunteers well ahead of resorting to the suspension of the program. And i believe the crux of the problem remains having a viable exit strategy. In 2012 it wasn’t the compromise of the volunteer’s security at site that prompted our evacuation (as all the volunteers serving in the south felt very safe at site), it was the fact that should anything happen we had no way out (what with all borders and the airport being closed).
Finally i’d like to say a couple of things about terrorism. When i was a child I was living abroad when 9/11 happened. I was attending an american private school, who had to paint over our buses and darken their windows. Still didn’t stop someone from spilling a bunch of flower over one of our bus stops in the middle of the anthrax freakout. I resided in Europe in the years immediately following 2001, living in a society coping with the various attacks that took place. In 2012 i was evacuated from Mali in the midst of attacks and the general collapse of the country. I moved back to Boston where, within a year, we suffered a bombing and a manhunt. Shootings in movie theaters, schools, and streets of every major city in the US. Attacks in major cities around the world from Paris to Nairobi to Istanbul. My point is that my generation has grown up in a world that is very unstable and unsafe. Now we can either choose to retreat from all these places, and face the consequences of that retreat. Or we can choose to continue the work we’ve set out to do, and refuse to be scared into abandoning our brothers, our sisters, and our purpose. Because no matter where I’ve seen terror used, i have never seen it be more successful that in the places we abandon to it. I’m not saying we should stay no matter the threat, and i’m not saying that everybody should act as I do (though i still encourage it). But i am saying that while our parents may have had the luxury of growing up in a place where they didn’t need to worry about being blown up or being shot, that is simply not the world me and my generation have grown up in. And if we choose to abandon every place where a shooting occurs, soon we’ll find we have no place left to go. Retreat, here, is simply not a strategy that will lead to anything good, especially when, at least for now, we have people ready to freely VOLUNTEER to stay.
Thanks again for this blog Bruce, as a fellow lover of this country i cannot tell you how eagerly i go through it.
Ala ka an kisi.
Ala ka Mali deme
Ala ka here ciaya (Viel Glück)
© 2015 bridgesfrombamako.com
=“background-color: #ccffcc;“>2. Réouverture du corps de la paix au Mali : 5 volontaires prêtent serment
Bamako (L’Indépendant) – 26 sept 2014 LIRE
Par Siaka Diamouténé
La résidence du chargé d’affaires, Andrew Young de l’Ambassade des Etats-Unis d’Amérique au Mali au quartier du fleuve a servi de cadre, le jeudi 25 septembre2014, à la cérémonie de réouverture du corps de la paix. Ainsi, 5 volontaires venus des USA ont prêté serment devant les autorités et ont été affectés à leur poste dans la région de Sikasso pour aller prêter main forte aux communautés locales dans de multiples domaines notamment l’hygiène, l’assainissement…
..depuis sa création au Mali le 17 avril 1971, le corps de la paix a formé plus de 2800 jeunes américains volontaires qui ont travaillé dans les six secteurs techniques : éducation, environnement, sécurité alimentaire, santé, développement des petites et moyennes entreprises, eau et assainissement. En plus, les volontaires du corps de la paix assistent les communautés locales dans les initiatives de prévention du VIH/SIDA, et dans la formation de l’usage des nouvelles technologies de la communication. Mais ces différentes interventions ont été interrompues suite à la double crise sécuritaire et politique que notre pays a connue pendant ces deux dernières années.
Le chargé d’affaires de l’ambassade des Etats-Unis, Andrew Young a souligné que c’est le retour de la paix au Mali qui a incité le corps de la paix à reprendre ses activités d’assistance aux communautés locales. Selon lui, le corps de la paix a été créé par le président Kennedy pour promouvoir la paix, le développement et la compréhension. Pour cela, il reconnaît la dignité et la valeur de tout être humain, et aide les gens à s’aider eux mêmes. »Les 5 volontaires du corps de la paix serviront le Mali en qualité de messagers de l’espoir et leur générosité contribuera à faciliter la compréhension mutuelle et le respect entre les Etats-Unis et les citoyens du Mali » a ajouté M. Young.
Le ministre de la Santé et de l’Hygiène Publique, Ousmane Koné a salué la réouverture du corps de la paix qui s’est fait remarquer dans notre pays non seulement dans l’intégration des jeunes volontaires et leur aisance à s’exprimer dans nos langues locales mais aussi par les multiples assistances que ces volontaires accordent à nos communautés locales. Notons que ces 5 volontaires ont été soumis à une formation linguistique, culturelle et technique intensive par un personnel malien hautement qualifié. Ils seront affectés dans la région de Sikasso pour renforcer les capacités des collectivités locales et des organisations afin de répondre adéquatement à leurs besoins de développement.
© 2014 L’Indépendant
1. Kein Friedenskorps nach Mali
Bridges from Bamako – 10. August 2015
Von Bruce Whitehouse
Obwohl ich gehofft hatte, den Sommer über eine Pause von diesem Blog zu nehmen, habe ich die jüngsten Ereignisse in Mali mit einem wachsend alarmierten Gefühl beobachtet. …Read more in English

2. Wiedereröffnung des Peace Corps in Mali: 5 Freiwillige leisten den Eid
Bamako (L’Indépendant) – 26. September 2014
Von Siaka Diamoutene
Die Residenz des Geschäftsträgers der Botschaft der Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika in Mali, Andrew Young, war am 25. September 2014 die Kulisse der Wiedereröffnung des Peace Corps. So wurden fünf Freiwillige aus den USA vor den Behörden vereidigt, um auf ihre Posten in der Region Sikasso zu gehen, um Hand anzulegen für lokale Gemeinschaften in vielen Bereichen, insbesondere Hygiene, Abwasserreinigung …
..seit seiner Gründung in Mali am 17. April 1971 bildete das Peace Corps mehr als 2.800 junge amerikanische Freiwillige aus, die in sechs Fachbereichen tätig waren: Bildung, Umwelt, Ernährungssicherheit, Gesundheit, Entwicklung von kleinen und mittleren Unternehmen, Wasserversorgung und Abwasserentsorgung. Darüber hinaus unterstützen die Freiwilligen aus dem Peace Corps lokale Gemeinschaften bei Initiativen zur Prävention von HIV / AIDS, und bei Schulungen zur Nutzung der neuen Kommunikationstechnologien. Aber diese verschiedenen Einsätze wurden durch die doppelte Krise, auf Sicherheits- und politischer Ebene, die unser Land in den vergangenen zwei Jahren durchmachte, unterbrochen.
Herr Andrew Young betonte, dass es die Rückkehr des Friedens in Mali sei, die das Peace Corps anregte, seine Aktivitäten zur Unterstützung lokaler Gemeinschaften wieder aufzunehmen. Er sagte, das Peace Corps wurde von Präsident Kennedy [1961] gegründet zur Förderung von Frieden, Entwicklung und Verständnis. Dazu erkenne es die Würde und den Wert jedes Menschen an und helfe den Menschen, sich selbst zu helfen. „Die 5 Freiwilligen des Peace Corps werden Mali als Boten der Hoffnung dienen, und ihre Großzügigkeit wird dazu beitragen, das gegenseitige Verständnis und den Respekt zwischen den Vereinigten Staaten und den Bürger von Mali zu erleichtern“, sagte Herr Young.
Der Minister für Gesundheit und öffentliche Hygiene, Ousmane Koné, begrüßte die Wiederaufnahme des Friedenskorps, das sich in unserem Land nicht nur bei der Integration der jungen Freiwilligen und durch deren gute Sprachkenntnisse in unserer Landessprache bemerkbar machten, sondern auch durch die vielfältigen Hilfen, die diese Freiwilligen in unseren lokalen Gemeinschaften leisten. Beachten Sie, dass diese fünf Freiwilligen einer sprachlichen, kulturellen und intensiven technischen Ausbildung durch hochqualifizierte Mitarbeiter aus Mali unterzogen wurden. Sie werden in der Region Sikasso eingesetzt werden….
© 2014 L’Indépendant

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