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African logbook - On the road in Mali and Niger

July 31, 2019

The EU has enlisted the help of Mali and Niger in an effort to keep African immigrants in Africa. A documentary that focuses on one of the most complicated and geopolitically important regions in the world: Niger and Mali.


In 2012, radical Islamists attacked Timbuktu, the legendary city on the trans-Saharan caravan route. Armed groups entered the historic town, plundering and destroying numerous monuments. The attackers even targeted UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and Timbuktu’s priceless manuscripts had to be smuggled to Mali’s capital, Bamako. Many of Timbuktu’s residents were traumatized. The city’s new conquerors forbade moderate Islam, banned dance and music, and practically wiped the city clean of cultural life. It has now been six years since Timbuktu was liberated by French troops. Have music and dance returned to the city? This documentary tells a visual story of Timbuktu and its residents. It shows how although Malians were scared during the reign of terror, they made music and song their weapons of resistance against radical Islam. One of the countries Mali shares a border with is Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world. Niger is a transit state for thousands of African migrants. In 2017, the EU announced it would provide Niger with one billion euros in aid through 2020. The aim is to reduce migration, also through tightening border security. Some of the money has been earmarked to provide financial support for the deportation of immigrants back into their native countries. The filmmakers accompanied people who had left the Algerian border and were heading back to Niger’s capital, as well as migrants on their way to Libya. They met with desperate locals, who were expecting to receive compensation from the European Union - but the money never came. They also met gravedigger Al Murabidu, who works in the middle of the Sahara, and sees what hardly anyone has noticed. Al Murabidu says that more immigrants are dying there than ever before, and most of them are foreigners. "For them, transit via Niger to Algeria has been banned," says Al Murabidu. "They now travel secretly, get lost, die of thirst and tiredness.

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