Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mali's Descent Into Hell: Deja-Vu All Over Again

Watching Mali descend into chaos gives me a sense of deja-vu. Wasn't it only too recently that Mali was held up as an African, democratic success-story? For the past ten years all Afro-optimists blurted out "Mali" when they wanted to show a democratic, multi-ethnic, and religiously-tolerant African state. In hindsight, we can now see that it was all an illusion. We were blind to glaring reality. The Malian political elites were just as bad as the rest of their Continental cousins, busy engaging themselves in massive looting of public coffers, corruption and even facilitating drug-smuggling.

I've seen this movie before, and it's all too familiar. A creeping case of deja-vu, all over again. In the 80s and early 90s, Ivory Coast was held up by all Afro-optimists as the sole success story (in French-speaking) Africa. "Paris" was the word blurted out to describe the shiny veneer of Abidjan, and all Afro-optimists pointed out to Ivory-Coast as the one African state "that worked". Well, we now know that all the shiny veneer of the famed Hotel Ivoire in Abidjan was nothing but an illusion.

An overvalued currency allowed the Frenchified elites of Abidjan to import all their basic needs from France (even toilet-paper!) and keep up the appearances of living in a modern (i.e. French) state. The structural imbalances of the economy and political system were glaring and were cruelly exposed after the death of the 1st President, Houphouet-Boigny. What we witnessed with Ivory Coast in the 90s, we're now witnessing again in Mali. A nation thought to be successful, but with deep structural imbalances in its economic and political system, has been cruelly exposed and brought to its knees. I weep for my beloved Africa.

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