Tag: Africa

Some Good News out of Mali

LIke me, I’m sure you were angered to hear of Islamists torching thousands of ancient manuscripts when they left Timbuktu (if you’re like me, this came after saying, “There’s a real place called Timbuktu?”). Well, there’s some good news:

Abba Alhadi has spent 40 of his 72 years on earth taking care of rare manuscripts. The illiterate old man, who walks with a cane and looks like a character from the Bible, was the perfect foil for the Islamists. They wrongly assumed that the city’s European-educated elite would be the ones trying to save the manuscripts, he said.

So last August, Alhadi began stuffing the thousands of books into empty rice and millet sacks.

At night, he loaded the millet sacks onto the type of trolley used to cart boxes of vegetables to the market. He pushed them across town and piled them into a lorry and onto the backs of motorcycles, which drove them to the banks of the Niger River.

From there, they floated down to the central Malian town of Mopti in a pinasse, a narrow, canoe-like boat. Then cars drove them from Mopti, the first government-controlled town, to Mali’s capital, Bamako, over 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) from here.

“I have spent my life protecting these manuscripts. This has been my life’s work. And I had to come to terms with the fact that I could no longer protect them here,” said Alhadi. “It hurt me deeply to see them go, but I took strength knowing that they were being sent to a safe place.”

It took two weeks in all to spirit out the bulk of the collection, around 28,000 texts housed in the old building covering the subjects of theology, astronomy, geography and more.

There was nothing they could do, however, for the 2,000 documents that had already been transferred to the new library, to its exhibition and restoration rooms, and to a basement vault. Cisse took solace knowing that most of the texts in the new library had been digitized.

Some texts were still lost. But tens of thousands were saved thanks to this man and others. I don’t know what award this make him eligible for but, whatever it is, he should get it. I’d say a Nobel, but I’d prefer an award that still has some meaning.

This Is Going Well

Yeah, nothing like democracy in action:

Protesters broke into the Israeli Embassy in Cairo Friday and dumped documents out of the windows as hundreds more demonstrated outside, prompting the ambassador and his family to leave the country. The unrest was a further worsening of already deteriorating ties between Israel and post-Hosni Mubarak Egypt.

Egyptian police made no attempt to intervene during the day as crowds of hundreds tore down an embassy security wall with sledgehammers and their bare hands or after nightfall when about 30 protesters stormed into the Nile-side high-rise building where the embassy is located.

Is this an indication of things to come? No one knows and anyone who claims they know is lying. The situation in Egypt is and will remain volatile. But I would err more on the “starting a war” side than the “singing kumbaya” side. The same goes for Libya and Syria.

The US did not deal with middle-east dictators because we liked dictators or enjoyed the sight of civilians being run over by tanks. We did it because we knew just how bad the Middle East could get.

Maybe things will settle down. But I’m not holding my breath.