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Malians’ exodus turns to tragedy 0

They were from Mali, all of them between the ages of 25 and 30, all of them part of the same family. They were dreaming about making both hands meet by trying to reach the European Eldorado through troubled ways: it had been going well since the arrival in Mauritania, a thousand kilometres away from their homes in the Bougouni province of Mali, but once they reached the Nouadhibou harbour, the menacing waves of the Atlantic Ocean would be their greatest challenge yet as they planned to sail off in unsafe canoes.

For Fousseyni, Ousmane e Moriba Bagayogo, the trip of hope quickly turned to tragedy. A tragedy that took place during a night of May between the Mauritanian and the Spanish coasts.

Fousseyni, Ousmane e Moriba’s stories have been pulled out from the oblivion thanks to the dramatic appeal made by a representative of the Malian civil society on a UN online forum about migration www.migration4development.org.

“A drip is taking place in our villages. Each month we are told about another friend or another relative’s or a neighbour’s death. These young people’s deaths create a lack of vital lymph in Mali that the money coming from cooperation and from the Malian migrants in other countries could never supply”.

Drissa Koné is a social worker. Head of a Malian NGO dedicated to childhood, GAE-Sahel, he goes across Bougouni province – in the region of Sikasso, the third area for migrants in the country – trying to renovate a social and economic structure torn by the cotton crisis.

An activity that has nothing to do with migration. “We suggest to the unemployed young people that they could try vegetables and fruits cultivation too, but it is hard. It seems that here people want to cultivate cotton only”, white gold as it is called in Mali.

Just a whim of Wall Street suffices for the collapse of raw materials’ prices on the International markets putting 250,000 citizens’ lives at risk in the Bougouni province. With less than 200,000 tons produced on a national level in 2008-2009 against the 242,000 in 2007 – which already marked a decrease of 42% compared to 2006 – the last harvest was disastrous.

“The economic crisis had a devastating impact on Bougouni” Drissé Kona says.

“It is no coincidence that during the last months I collected more witnesses of parents that on a daily basis have seen their sons leaving their villages to emigrate in foreign countries”.

Fousseyni Bagayogo, 25, married with a child, worked as a farmer in the village of Ouré; Ousmane Bagayogo, the so-called “Old One”, was a farmer too, he was 30 and lived in the village of Kéléya with his wife and their children; Moriba instead lived in the village of Ganalé. Just like many others have done, they have left during the night in order to avoid raising the local officials’ suspicions who feel powerless in the face of this mass exodus.

Fousseyni’s father has sold a wagon and three cows to send his son to Spain. But his son’s death was a ruin for him. The only comfort for the Bagayogo family is that they have been informed quickly about the tragedy. Sali Kone, a seller of counterfeit Chinese drugs, had to wait four years before knowing that her husband was drowned.

According to the only census, made in 2001, 2.5 million of Malians have decided to migrate to a foreign country, which means almost a sixth of the national population. Today they talk about four million expatriated people, among whom only 3% have arrived in Europe. With such low salaries, “everybody would be tempted by escape. Unfortunately the government has no sufficient means to contrast emigration”. But Fousseyni, Ousmane and Moriba have already been stopped by death.

By Joshua Massarenti – Afronline

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