18:30 GMT: The city was calm throughout the day and I haven’t heard shots for a couple of days now. The Bamako airport has reopened and some outbound flights managed to depart on Thursday. A team of Nigerian footballers who got stuck here when the airport closed is looking forward to going home, having been visited at their hotel yesterday morning by heavily armed Malian troops, no doubt on the hunt for those infamous mercenaries at large.
According to media reports, life in Bamako has been gradually returning to normal since Thursday. One report on RFI describes the resumption of daily routines. And there have been some positive signs on the diplomatic front, as ECOWAS seems to be taking a more productive, less bellicose stance toward Mali’s junta; at a summit in Dakar yesterday that included Mali’s interim president and prime minister, the regional body affirmed that it would not send troops to Mali without the request of the Malian government.
ORTM continues to broadcast mostly pre-recorded programming (i.e., recorded years ago), TM2 has been completely off air since Tuesday morning, and apparently the area around the ORTM compound in Bozola has been completely sealed off by the army. I haven’t seen a journal télévisé since the “counter-coup” on Monday, only occasional “flash infos” like the one below showing Captain Sanogo visiting his troops in Kati who were wounded in the fighting this week.
You can also watch an extended “flash infos” from Thursday, May 3, which at the ten-minute mark includes video (without audio) of a visit by U.S. Ambassador to Mali Mary Beth Leonard to Interim President Dioncouna Traoré at the Koulouba presidential palace on Monday, just hours before the “counter-coup” began. It’s worth noting that, unlike many of her counterparts in Bamako, Ambassador Leonard has made a point of not going to visit CNRDRE junta leader Captain Amadou Sanogo in Kati.
[Postscript, Saturday morning, May 5: There has been, however, at least one ORTM evening news broadcast this week, airing at 21:00 GMT on Friday May 4. Topics covered included: the ECOWAS summit in Dakar and the Malian government spokesman's reaction to it; a request to all members of the army's airborne regiment -- i.e., red berets -- to visit a "welcome center" at a Bamako gendarmerie to be counted and "physically checked" before May 10; prayers for peace in Bamako and Mopti; the decision to reopen schools and universities (closed since Tuesday) on Monday May 7; union messages to Mali's workers; World Press Freedom Day. The newscaster wraps up saying "ORTM suffered no loss of life during the events of the beginning of this week."]
Do try this at home
Following my last post on Wednesday afternoon, in which I shared some observations from a trip downtown, I was reminded that the U.S. Embassy’s advice to American citizens in Bamako is to continue to “shelter in place” — i.e., stay home. So for the benefit of readers in Bamako, even if you haven’t received an SMS alert from the embassy for a few days, don’t assume it is safe to go out. As the embassy’s latest emergency message reads, the SMS alert system “does not have a 100% success rate due to the volume of calls currently moving through the Malian cell phone network.” And you can check the embassy website for new emergency messages.
So, until advised to do otherwise, we are sheltering in place, or “sipping” as we Yanks like to say. This term comes up a great deal in conversation lately among American expats in Bamako, as you can see from the sample dialogues I have reconstructed below:
- Fred: “Say, Barney, I thought I’d call ’cause I haven’t seen ya lately. What ya been up to?”
- Barney: “Just sipping.”
- Fred: “Yeah? Me too.”
- Children: “Hey dad, what are we doing today?”
- Father: “Sipping.”
- Children: “Sipping again? Yay!”
You get the picture. Sipping presents many opportunities for fun. If you have electricity, you can watch television, digital video discs, or maybe even surf the information superhighway and obsess about current events. If the power’s out, as it was for a good chunk of today in our neighborhood, you can entertain the kids with games of hide and seek, or fill up wash basins in the courtyard for them to cool off in. (Today’s high: 106 degrees F, 41 degrees C.)
Sip safely, everyone!