No coun­try for young men: Mali loses its youths to mi­grant cri­sis

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

KOD­JAN: Once bustling with sinewy young men like any other farm­ing vil­lage in ru­ral Mali, Kod­jan is start­ing to look dis­tinctly grey. Lit­tle by lit­tle, the de­mo­graph­ics of the set­tle­ment are al­ter­ing as its youth join the ex­o­dus of African mi­grants look­ing for a bet­ter life in Europe. “My three grand­chil­dren went off in search of ad­ven­ture in Spain, be­cause here there is noth­ing,” a 72year-old woman tells AFP in front of her shack. “If they had not gone, we would have died of hunger.”

Across the vil­lage of around 2,000, some 60 kilo­me­ters west of the cap­i­tal Ba­mako, the story is the same. An un­earthly quiet suf­fo­cates the streets lined with straw and mud huts that once rang with the laugh­ter of hus­bands, sons and fa­thers. Nearly 140,000 mi­grants ar­rived in Italy from Africa by sea in 2015, the bulk of them Eritre­ans but size­able num­bers from west Africa too, ac­cord­ing to In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion fig­ures.

The heads of state and gov­ern­ment from most of the EU mem­ber coun­tries and more than 30 African na­tions in­clud­ing Mali are due in the Mal­tese cap­i­tal Val­letta on Wed­nes­day for talks on tack­ling Europe’s mi­gra­tion cri­sis. African lead­ers will be asked to ap­prove an ac­tion plan aimed at tack­ling the root causes of mass mi­gra­tion, ac­cord­ing to a draft ob­tained by AFP. While Eritre­ans are flee­ing a bloody and re­pres­sive dic­ta­tor­ship, the ex­o­dus from Kod­jan, where the lo­cal econ­omy is al­most en­tirely re­liant on agri­cul­ture, is about money.

‘Dy­ing of shame’

“At the end of the win­ter sea­son, there is noth­ing left to do, and young peo­ple would rather leave than re­main idle, dy­ing of shame,” says farmer Ous­mane Diarra. He tells AFP that in every fam­ily at least three young men are “on some for­eign ad­ven­ture, earn­ing money for their rel­a­tives”. As­sis­tant vil­lage chief Moussa Diarra, 77, ex­plains the sit­u­a­tion to Kod­jan’s coun­cil as he sits in a wooden chair un­der trees in a yard among chick­ens peck­ing for grain and women pound­ing mil­let. “The vil­lagers scrape to­gether the money the young peo­ple need to travel,”he says.

“Last month for ex­am­ple, we sold an ox and, with the money raised, three young peo­ple left.” Ac­cord­ing to the of­fi­cial, young peo­ple travel to Mali’s cities to look for work and, when they have saved enough, set out across the desert to Libya or Morocco, and on­ward across the treach­er­ous Mediter­ranean Sea. “When young peo­ple ar­rive in Europe, this is a re­ally happy event for us here. It solves our prob­lems,” says Ou­mar Diarra, 62, another vil­lager. Nearby, Sika Diarra proudly points out a satel­lite dish on his roof. “I have a son who is in Spain. It is an ad­ven­ture. He sends us money and it is thanks to him that we have the satel­lite dish,” he says. “We pray to God that his lit­tle brother will also make it to Europe. That’s all that can save us.

Noth­ing else,” adds his wife. Nearby, a girl aged 15 with a baby on her back ex­plains anx­iously that her hus­band went to Spain two years ago and she has since heard noth­ing. — AFP

KOD­JAN: Two women pound grain as other vil­lagers gather in Kod­jan, some 60 kilo­me­ters west of Ba­mako. The vil­lage of some 2000 in­hab­i­tants has seen many of its youth leave to seek their for­tunes in Europe and to help those left be­hind fi­nan­cially. — AFP

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