On the ground in Gao

Although there is no working internet nor TV in Gao, cell phone reception has been pretty much reliable ever since rebel takeover, and even the local radio station continues to broadcast (locally run, not run by rebels). The radio cannot play music of course, but they can talk all they want, and politics is not off limits.  Common knowledge is that Ansar Dine is more up for negotiations and have had representatives visit Algeria, Burkina, and with Malian leaders to attempt to dialogue; however, MUJAO (who occupies Gao) is digging their heels in on Sharia. Local Marabou’s (holy leaders) have been on the air in Gao too, spreading messages about right interpretations of the Koran (contrary to how the rebels have been behaving). These same holy leaders/community leaders have also been dialoguing with the rebels to try to influence them on less-fanatic and more practical interpretations of the Koran.  They are taking an active stance to try to make the situation better for the community and spread messages to dissuade people from believing and taking sides with the rebels.

(*note, Songhai is the official language of Gao, also the language of the radio.  Many of the rebels are from   neighboring countries and would not speak/understand this language.  The holy leaders know Arabic because of their familiarity with the Koran, thus they are able to communicate with the rebels.  Many people in the population know some words in Arabic becuase of Koranic studies, but they would not be able to carry out a conversation in it.)

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