Vive la France, Vive le Mali
The recapture of Timbuktu was done by moonlight. More than 250 French troops parachuted down to the northern entrance of the fabled desert city, while an armoured column sealed the southern exit.
After close to a year of occupation by Islamists, which has driven more than half the population from Mali’s cultural heart and left an unknown toll on its famous libraries and shrines, the ordeal was over.
“Not a shot was fired,” said a French Colonel who declined to give his name, but confirmed he had led the 12-day operation to retake the city.
By this afternoon the city’s maze of dusty streets were being patrolled by French and Malian troops for remaining militants and crowds had gathered at every corner chanting: “Vive la France, vive le Mali!”
Women and children mobbed two pick-up trucks of Malian soldiers that arrived after the French force had sealed the city. One man was dressed from head to foot in a costume that he had fashioned from hand-stitched Tricolore flags. Many of the women were dressed in vivid colours and had removed their veils to replace them with flags.
Mohamed Ibrahim Traore, a shopkeeper whose store has been closed for months said the women were happy “because they don’t have to put on the veils on their face”. “Today we got our liberty back,” he said. “Every Malian deserves their liberty, the Frency army and the Malian army have given us this.”
A crowd had gathered at the house of singer Akia Coulibaly. Dressed in a turquoise wrap she stopped her street show briefly to recount how life has been since last April when Timbuktu fell into the hands of Islamists.
“We are having a party,” she shouted over the din. “We haven’t danced or sung while they have been here. They cut hands, they beat people. We have been prisoners.”
—Daniel Howden, Timbuktu, The Independent, 1/28/13
Voices United for Mali,* “Mali Ko (La Paix/Peace),” 1/13
*Fatoumata Diawara, Amadou & Mariam, Oumou Sangare, Bassekou Kouyate, Vieux Farka Toure, Djelimady Tounkara, Toumani Diabate, Khaira Arby, et al.