Thursday, August 7, 2008

Le Coup d'Etat en Mauritanie

So I have just been receiving numerous inquiries from my comrades on the homefront about my well-being vis-a-vis the recent coup d'etat in Mauritania. I am flattered by your concern and impressed by the fact that you are now amongst the very select group of Americans who can locate both Mali AND Mauritania on a map, and also know that they are next to each other. But do not worry; 1) what happened in Mauritania is really not that big of a deal - coups happen in African countries all the time, and this one was a particularly clean operation; 2) contrary to popular belief, countries in Africa are actually different, and the political situation in Mali is totally fine; 3) even if something did in fact happen in Mali which were to endanger my safety and security, the United States government provides for its own. Scroll down a few blog posts to the map of Western Africa - take note that Mali and Mauritania are, like, totally different countries!

Today we are going over all of the security policies in detail. If there were actually a spate of nationwide violence in country, e.g. a nationwide political conflict which were to endanger foreigners such as yours truly, then an awesome motherfucking jacked SUV with the red white and blue Peace Corps logo, equipped with a 2-way radio to communicate with the US Embassy in the case of the phone network being shut down, and air conditioning is going to pick me up at my site, then they are going to drive me to the US Embassy compound (which looks like a yuppie military fortress), and then all US Peace Corps personnel will be airlifted out with Foreign Service helicopters. If the roads are down, then a helicopter is going to land in the closest field to my mud hut and pick me up right then and there. I have never seen these helicopters, but supposedly they exist. Such operations were carried out in recent months for Peace Corps Volunteers in Cote d'Ivoire during their particularly violent coup d'etat, as well as in Kenya during the spate of Kikuyu/Luo violence.

But this is just hypothetical for me at the moment. I wouldn't count on me being evacuated out anytime soon. Going against the grain in Africa, Mali is a functioning multiparty parliamentary democracy. There has not been a coup d'etat in Mali in 16 years, which for African means that Mali is really, really stable! The current president Amadou Tumani Taure is an independent who is pretty well-liked amongst most significant factions in the country, he is on good terms with the military, and thus there is little reason to suspect a coup here anytime in the near future.

Though there is violence in Mali's northern Timbouctu and Kidal provinces due to the on-again off-again Tuareg rebellion, this conflict is relegated to these obscure desertous provinces which consist of little more than sand, rocks and populated only by the occasional Tuareg camel train, and I am explicitly forbidden from going there anytime soon. I repeat, the Peace Corps has selected sites for Volunteers under the strict criteria of being absolutely safe from any and all political violence. I am doing water sanitation, which is going to entail digging wells, building water pumps, treating water systems, and digging irrigiation systems - it would be pretty stupid to assign me to anywhere where armed Tuaregs exist - a stretch of desert inhabited only by the occasional nomad camp. I am being sent to Segou province, which is a lush region where people farm millet, rice, fruits and vegetables. There are no Tuareg rebels on camels patrolling my peaceful Shire.

But, if in fact Malian society spontaneously implodes and there is a violent conflict between the millet farming and cucumber farming factions, then rest assured that I will be ferried to safety via a jacked Peace Corps SUV and a Foreign Service helicopter - which I am told exists... somewhere.


Adrian said...

There is rumored to be oil in Mali's bit of the Sahara - I think some Chinese companies are trying to buy prospecting rights.

Nice blog. I wrote my thesis on the Tuareg rebellion and have posted a bit on it on my own blog, Also my sister went to Williams, so THBBBBT.

LonesomeSlidz said...

And I thought Tuareg was VW's poor excuse for a gas guzzling, smog producing, road hogging SUV! I guess you just never know.

Your Mother has reportedly taken to negotiating at Stew Leonards and Costco. She mumbles something about her son being in Mali with the Peace Corps and they either give her a discount or ask why the Peace Corps sends people to Hawaii. Go figure!