Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Mali's Gao erases Islamist trace

31 January 2013, 16:06

Gao - Armed with fresh paint and patrols, Mali's key northern city of Gao is trying to wipe out the traces left behind by the Islamists who ruled it until French and Malian forces came to its rescue last weekend.

A giant billboard declaring: "together for the sake of God almighty and the fight against sinners", used to remind the city's residents of the power of their former Sharia-law rulers, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (Mujao).

But no more. On Wednesday, Gao's governor General Adama Diallo and Mayor Sadou Diallo used a few strokes of fresh paint to make the hardline message - plastered by the ochre-coloured city's eastern entrance -disappear.

Along with other high-ranking officials, the two of them returned to their hometown from Bamako on 26 January, on the same evening that French and Malian soldiers liberated Gao.

During the symbolic ceremony, the mayor declared that the Salafist-authored text "does not belong in the Republic of Mali". He paid homage to France and the African soldiers that took part in Gao's liberation.

He insisted that, in this city, located some 1 200km north-east of the capital, it is now a matter of "erasing traces left behind" by the Mujao.

Only metres away, an administrative building, which used to be a base for the Islamists in Gao, lay in ruins, destroyed by French air strikes.

Since its liberation, Gao's population has already begun its work to eliminate its former feared masters. All over the city, especially where the Islamists had inscribed passages from the Koran, colourful Malian, French and African flags now decorate both billboards and walls.

Persistent fear

But black banners, still attached to some of Gao's buildings, provide evidence of the hardline rule the fleeing Islamists once held here.

The rebels "have left the city", but "the work continues with search operations", the governor told AFP on the sidelines of Wednesday's ceremony.

Malian army jeeps are visible throughout the city and French and Nigerian soldiers patrol the streets.

According to a local policeman, officers questioned a Mujao suspect as recently as Wednesday morning. He also said that troops had seized a box of ammunition as well as knives and machetes.

"We believe there are still suspects in the city, we're continuing the search" for them, he said. At least 10 suspected Islamists have been arrested in surrounding villages since Saturday, he added.

Later on Wednesday, Malian soldiers responded to calls by residents and searched the banks of the Niger River.

"We have to take the slightest rumour seriously," remarked a soldier, standing under the shade of a tree.

"These people are dangerous," he said, adding there were fears of potential "kamikaze" attacks.

"We are not reassured," Aboubacar Issa said while playing boules with a dozen other youths by the city's independence monument.

"There was no violent fighting in which people from Mujao were killed. There were no bodies or combat material," he said. "They are hiding somewhere for certain, we're afraid they may return one day or another."

Despite the persistent fear, despite the tensions still lingering in the city, despite the electricity working only a few hours a day, Gao is, however, slowly coming back to life.

In the early hours of the morning, unveiled girls now play and sing while doing the laundry in the tranquil waters of the river.


Tags france mali

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...