Gao citizens are euphoric after a tense week of drone strikes and waiting to see what would happen – cut off from the rest of the world by phone, TV, radio etc. Citizens remarked that they had stayed inside all week, not eating anything, fearful and waiting. One friend who is usually clean-shaven said that his hair is so long now – never in his life has his hair been like that, but never in his life has he had to be put through such a tense situation. As a collector and seller of antiquities, if he left, he said, everything would have been destroyed. Also, as the head of a large family he took the risk to stay in Gao and pray everything would pass.
Citizens report that the drone strikes were incredibally accurate. Only rebel lodging, ammunitions stores, and vehicles were targeted. There were many casualties but no civilians. Citizens said that when the drones hit the whole town trembled. Beyond fear ,the only thing locals could do was pray that they would not be targeted.
Now tonight for the first time in almost 10 months, citizens are out on the streets rejoicing. Women have taken off their veils, men enjoy a celebratory smoke, and eyes and ears are glued to TVs and radios to find out what’s next. The soldiers moved on further north last night and the fighting continues there. As they moved up into the desert, citizens remarked that they could see fighting all through the night , the light flashes a contrast to the black desert sky.
The question looms now, with the city restored back to its citizens, what can be done to help heal the psychological wounds and build up the significantly destroyed city? What is Bamako’s response to the northern citizens who have been cut off economically even before the rebel takeover (since I would say the French kidnappings in Niamey in Jan 2011), who are desperately in need of assistance ?