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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 January 2015

Gregory Mann
Affiliation:
Columbia University, New York
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Summary

Frantz Fanon was growing angry. It was 1960, and he was deep in Mali, a vast country, “fervent and brutal,” a place where there was “no need of great speeches.” The country had just gained independence from France weeks before, and its new president, Modibo Keita, “ever militant,” had assured him of his support. Everything was set. Fanon and his colleagues, Algerian revolutionaries seeking to open a southern front for the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), had already avoided prying French eyes in Bamako and dodged what they took to be a kidnapping attempt in Monrovia. They were headed east and north, to Gao, Aguelhoc, Tessalit. So how to account for the roadblock, the intransigence?

At Mopti, a snag. On the way out of town: a gendarmes’ roadblock, and the sentries demand our passports. Difficult discussion because, in spite of the document from the Minister of the Interior [Madeira Keita], the gendarmes want to know our identities. Finally the commanding officer arrives, and I’m obliged to introduce myself. But it seems we’re faced with a man who’s after intelligence. He wants to know the nature of our mission and the roles of my companions.

In the end, Fanon and his comrades get out of it. “Promising absolute secrecy,” the officer lets the militants go, but that’s not the end of their troubles. “The road from Mopti to Douentza is a joke,” Fanon tells us. Decades later, when I traveled it on a small but sturdy motorcycle, that joke wasn’t funny anymore. But along that same road, some forms of political power were visible to the naked eye, just as in Fanon’s roadblock experience. What struck me then, and stays with me still, was the immobility of the state, represented by the somnolent gendarmes manning scattered checkpoints, and the humming power of international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), whose white Toyota Land Cruisers shot like arrows the length of the country. Neither Fanon nor the two Keitas could have imagined such a future, but they’d seen something like it in the past. From the saddle of the motorbike, the easy conclusion was that the state was weak, the NGOs strong. That was wrong.

Type
Chapter
Information
From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel
The Road to Nongovernmentality
, pp. 1 - 12
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2014

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References

le Monde April 6, 2012
Diouf, and Chirac, , “Urgence à Tombouctou,” le Monde July 13, 2012Google Scholar
Synthèses périodiques, #11, June 4–17, 1973
Johnson, T., “6 African Nations End 14-day Talks,” New York Times Sept. 13, 1973Google Scholar
Procès-Verbal [hereafter, P-V], BPN, August 7, 1962
Comité inter-états de lutte contre la sécheresse au Sahel (CILSS), created in 1976

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  • Introduction
  • Gregory Mann, Columbia University, New York
  • Book: From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel
  • Online publication: 05 January 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139061209.003
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  • Introduction
  • Gregory Mann, Columbia University, New York
  • Book: From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel
  • Online publication: 05 January 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139061209.003
Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Gregory Mann, Columbia University, New York
  • Book: From Empires to NGOs in the West African Sahel
  • Online publication: 05 January 2015
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139061209.003
Available formats
×