• Category Archives: WEST AFRICA

  • “No Ghana”: The road out of Nkoranza

    August 2, 2012 by marine_olivesi in with 0 COMMENTS


    Nested in Ghana’s deep countryside, the sleepy town of Nkoranza has seen over the past 3 decades tens of thousands of its residents depart for greener pastures (though literally speaking, it’s hard to imagine such thing exists!)


    Since the 80′s, emigration has thrived on the town’s under-developement and high unemployment rate. Donyina Koranteng, the head of a local organization for Libyan returnees, says Nkoranza seemed so cut off from the rest of the country when he was a kid that locals gave it the nickname “No Ghana.”


    That was before the road (above) connecting Nkoranza to Ghana’s North-South highway was built… But little has changed since.


    Nearly half of the Ghanaian migrant workers who fled Libya last year hailed from Nkoranza and villages around. And some are on their way North again, undeterred by the risks they face on the road, and in post-Revolution Libya.


  • Ishumar

    June 11, 2012 by marine_olivesi in with 0 COMMENTS

    After a two-month long journey that took me from Bamako to Burkina’s remote Sahel region to Ghana’s deep countryside, I’m about to depart West Africa and head back to Libya.


    No “travel digest” post here… I’d rather point out to that old NYT article on the Tuareg band Tinariwen’s latest album, Tassili, which has carried me through many hours on the road over the past couple of months.


    The story retraces the coming of age of the band (formed in the late 70’s in Libya’s Tuareg refugee-settlements-turned-guerrilla-boot-camps) and of its latest production.


    With “Tassili,” Tinariwen, whose music is a hard-rocking hybrid of Berber, Arab, Western and black African styles, has sought to return to its beginnings. Named for a spectacular area of canyons and sandstone arches near Algeria’s border with Libya, the CD was rehearsed and recorded out of doors there, in tents and around campfires much like those where the group’s founding members, political exiles then living in refugee settlements, first came together to play.

    “We wanted to go back to our origins, to the experience of ishumar,” which means exile or being adrift, explained Eyadou ag Leche, the band’s bass player.


    Ten months after its release, Tassili has become a worldwide hit and won a Grammy Award for best world music album while a momentous sequence of events rocked the region.


    I’ve had a chance during this fellowship-sponsored West African trip to explore at great lengths the migration-based connections between Libya’s uprising and Mali’s unrest: A “Tuareg-friendly” dictator toppled and the homecoming of thousands of Tuaregs who fought for and finally imposed what they had long been asking for: an independent state (publicly supported by the way by some Tinariwen members)


    Yet, history still is repeating itself for Tuaregs. Independent state or not, hundreds of thousands have been forced into that “ishumar experience” once more.


    Worst, the scarce reports coming out of North Mali describes the emptiness and lifelessness of formerly vibrant towns like Timbuktu, now in the hands of extreme Islamist groups.


    Painful kicker in the recently published personal story out of Timbuktu of AP journalist and friend Baba Ahmed.


    After five days, the convoy I came with left Timbuktu. As we rolled out of town, around 50 young people jumped on the back of the trucks, taking advantage of the free ride south.

    Another group leaving the place they grew up in, I thought with a heavy heart. Another group deciding they will be better off somewhere else.


  • From Burkina to Ghana

    June 3, 2012 by marine_olivesi in with 0 COMMENTS

    Sahel Reserve, Northern Burkina Faso

       ”African Heroes,” Ouagadougou

    Ghana & Burkina Flags                

       Mohamed Murtala & baby girl

    Bolgatanga, Northern Ghana        

            Coco drink at the bus station

    On the road South, Ghana            

  • Islamist Groups Now Main Threat To North Mali Say Tuareg Refugees

    May 17, 2012 by marine_olivesi in with 0 COMMENTS




    Mohamed Ag In’ Tahna (top left) arrived at Damba refugee camp yesterday at 5am. He had to leave 20 relatives at the border as their car broke down on the way. A camel took him to Damba, and he’s now looking for a vehicle to bring his family over. He says they fled their village near Timbuktu on Monday along with 2 other families because of the Sharia law imposed by Islamist groups.


    Alhader Ag Azar (bottom left) arrived at Ferrerio refugee camp 3 months ago. He had already spent 3 years in the mid-90′s on the same site as a refugee, “under the same tree.” He says he originally fled for fear of a military crackdown when the Tuareg rebellion kicked off, but is now staying put because of the rise of Islamist groups in North Mali.

  • Tuareg Girls at Refugee Camp, Northern Burkina

    May 15, 2012 by marine_olivesi in with 0 COMMENTS

  • A Somewhat Unhealthy Teaser

    May 10, 2012 by marine_olivesi in with 0 COMMENTS


    This Brussels Airlines ad in Bamako translates into “Europe has never been so close” or “Putting Europe within your reach.”


    One out of three Malians live abroad today. Europe only hosts a small chunk of the diaspora, but has long been considered a prime destination.


    Beyond the claim that a 406,000 CFA ticket (about $810) is within reach of regular Malians in a country where the average monthly salary hovers around $60/month (…and beyond the claim that $810 for a flight to Europe is such a great deal to begin with), I can’t help but wonder if the “mad men” behind that ad have purposely designed it to tease Malians’ year for migration.

  • From Libya to Mali, a Tale of Two Returns

    April 25, 2012 by marine_olivesi in with 0 COMMENTS

    Haruna Traoré, a Malian who had spent a decade in Libya, compares the return

    of about 20,000 Malian migrant workers to that of some 2,000 Tuaregs and

    says they’ve been on the loser’s end twice — in Libya, and back home in Mali.

  • Electoral “night” in Bamako

    April 23, 2012 by marine_olivesi in with 0 COMMENTS

    Almost 8pm in Paris… Tuned in to TV5 Monde, a few expats and locals

    wait for the preliminary results of French Presidential election’s first round.

  • Migration and the Arab Spring: a Short Introduction

    April 22, 2012 by marine_olivesi in with 0 COMMENTS

    Excellent read from the Brooking’s Institute on migration, displacement and the Arab Spring as I embark on a 6-month long Immigration Journalism Fellowship on this very subject thanks to a grant from the Ford Foundation and the French-American Foundation.


    An estimated two million people have left their homes over the last year as a result of the impact of the Arab Spring across North Africa and the Middle East. And at least thirty countries have been directly affected by these flows according to its author, Khalid Koser.


    “Numerically, the largest single category of people who have been forced from their homes over the last year during the Arab Spring has been migrant workers. This phenomenon has been particularly significant in Libya. In the three months between March and June 2011, over half a million migrant workers left Libya for Egypt and Tunisia — more than the number of Libyans who fled the country during all of last year and more than the number of internally displaced Libyans or Syrians. While the majority of these migrant workers were from Egypt and Tunisia, about 250,000 were from other countries, in particular sub-Saharan Africa.”


    And that’s precisely where I start my reporting project, in West Africa. First stop: Mali, a country that is feeling the first major shockwave of Gaddafi’s fall.


    Most people here see the current crisis in North Mali as a by-product of the conflict in Libya last year.

    Addressing the turmoil in West Africa and the Sahel region, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon too connected both episodes in his address last week to Luxembourg’s Parliament: “Events in Libya have made an already difficult security and humanitarian situation even worse. Many thousands returned home to the Sahel. Some were migrant workers, but others are armed fighters, criminal elements, bringing with them large quantities of light and heavy weapons and ammunition.”


    Stay tuned for my upcoming story on the migration-based connections between the Libyan uprising and the current crisis in Mali.




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