Washington, DC — After ten very long months of suffering, numerous mutilations and whippings, frequent rapes of women and girls, and repeated negations of basic human rights, the residents of Timbuktu, the fabled city that has stood for centuries as an international center of culture and learning, have retrieved their most precious treasure. Not the historic UNESCO-designated mausoleums that were recently destroyed. Not the priceless ancient manuscripts that were torched. No, what the people of Timbuktu have recovered is even more important, their Freedom!
Wearing beautiful traditional dresses, women were once again singing, dancing, and laughing after being silenced and forced to cover head to toe in Islamic veils for ten very long months. Men were once again playing drums and other musical instruments after months of privation under the Islamists' brutal sharia law. People of Timbuktu and other northern cities, Gao, Ansongo, Sevare to name a few, overwhelmingly welcomed Malian and French troops who liberated them. They reserved a massive hero's welcome for French President, Francois Hollande, to express their gratitude, relief, and joy while also applauding his public recognition of a brotherhood of nations with France trying to repay its debt to Mali and the other African countries who contributed to liberate France during World War I and II.
At this important juncture of our country's history, we, members of a coalition of eight Malian Diaspora Associations (see list below) wish to join our country fellow women and men in extending our sincerest gratitude and appreciation to France, ECOWAS, the African Union, the United States, and the International Community for standing with Mali in our greatest time of need by devoting resources, restoring our country's integrity, protecting human rights, and upholding the rule of law. Even though the northern regional capitals of Gao, Timbuktu, and Kidal have been liberated, one third of the North remains to be liberated.
We call upon the International Community to block the Islamist militant and terrorist groups known as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Ansar Dine and the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) from establishing a safe haven for terrorism, drugs and arms trafficking in Northern Mali. If not stopped, this "Somalization" of part, or all, of Mali will undoubtedly represent a national security threat to all democratic and peace-loving nations, including nearby Europe and the United States, as evidenced by the recent hostage crisis in Algeria.
In the face of the terrorists' aggression against the sovereignty and people of Mali, the Malian Diaspora urges the United Nations, in line with its mandates, to remove any impediment to the "call to action" and to contribute to the resolution of the crisis, particularly through adequate funding of the African military efforts in Mali and the deployment of peace keeping forces to avoid the return of the terrorist groups. We also appeal for greater assistance and involvement from the United States and other Western Countries.
Concomitantly, we urge the international community to provide greater humanitarian assistance. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that "more than 350,000 people have fled their homes in Mali. Displaced civilians have ended up in the Southern part of Mali and as refugees in the neighboring countries of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Niger. Immediate needs of these distressed populations include food, clean water, shelter, urgent medical care, and educational services for the children.
The Malian Diaspora urges the Malian authorities to protect the fundamental rights of all civilians, regardless of their origin, race, religion or political beliefs. All violations of human rights, including those committed by anyone involved in Mali military conflict, must be promptly denounced, independently investigated, and prosecuted. It is imperative to encourage dialogue with all the ethnic groups living in Northern Mali in order to find a permanent solution and lasting peace. Lastly, we urge Malian authorities to lead the post-crisis nation building efforts including, but not limited to, a real decentralization; individual and collective empowerment; and inclusive political, social, and economic development for the Nation.
Over the past two decades, Mali and West Africa have made significant progress in implementing democratic principles and political and economic reforms, which have led to human rights gains, increased investment confidence, and sustained economic growth.
It is the hope of the Members of the Malian associations that Malian Authorities, with support from the International Community, will use the current crisis as an opportunity to address the root causes of the crisis and further improve its democracy and governance.