Canada Relatives of the "father of independence" cultivate the memory of another Mali

17:30  22 september  2020
17:30  22 september  2020 Source:   parismatch.com

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Hatouma Keïta, fille de Modibo Keïta, premier président du Mali indépendant, à Bamako le 21 septembre 2020 avec, à ses côtés, un portrait de son père © MICHELE CATTANI Hatouma Keïta, daughter of Modibo Keïta, first president of independent Mali, in Bamako on September 21, 2020 with, at her side , a portrait of her father

"It's a pride!": on the occasion of the anniversary of Mali's independence, Hatouma Keïta is spreading a large flag out of the cupboard in front of the family house and a panel paying tribute to his father, the first president Modibo Keïta.

Onlookers stop, read a few lines or take a look. "It's an honor for me", a way of saying to Bamako who lives here, soberly says Hatouma Keïta, 56 years old.

Modibo Keïta is the "father of the nation", as the history books call it. It was he who, on September 22, 1960, proclaimed the independence of the former French Sudan, which became the Republic of Mali. He takes over the presidency of this new country and engages in a socialist policy.

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Fatoumata Diallo Keïta, assise, 3è femme du premier président du Mali indépendant Modivbo Keïta, à Bamako le 21 septembre 2020 avec sa fille Hatouma Keïta © MICHELE CATTANI Fatoumata Diallo Keïta, seated, 3rd wife of the first president of independent Mali Modivbo Keïta, in Bamako on September 21, 2020 with his daughter Hatouma Keïta

He will be overthrown eight years later by Lieutenant Moussa Traoré and placed in detention , where he died in 1977.

Moussa Traoré, who died last week, exercised 22 years of authoritarian power before falling in his turn following a putsch. "Under Moussa, we did not speak of Modibo Keïta", says Maimouna Diakité, adopted daughter of President Keïta. "Even when Modibo died, Moussa Traoré spoke of him as a + retired teacher +".

Fatoumata Diallo Keïta, au centre, 3ème épouse de Modibo Keïta, premier président du Mali indépenant, avec sa famille chez elle à Bamako, le 21 septembre 2021 © MICHELE CATTANI Fatoumata Diallo Keïta, in the center, 3rd wife of Modibo Keïta, first president of independent Mali, with her family at her home in Bamako, September 21, 2021

Most of the family members leave Mali, from others keep a low profile. It was only after the coup d'état that deposed Moussa Traoré in 1991, considered the advent of democracy, that Mr. Keïta's memory was revived.

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“ Independence commemorates the beginning [ of the struggle],” says Elena Albarrán, associate professor of history and global and intercultural studies at Miami University in Ohio. “In this case, you celebrate the moment of insurgency, the possibility, and the hope.”

A memorial was built, we gave its name to the airport and the main stadium in Bamako. "When Moussa Traoré left, each president did his best to ensure that Malians did not forget Modibo," said his adopted daughter.

- "No more husbands like him" -

The national patriarch is everywhere in the family house. A huge portrait sits next to the television in the living room, his old Zenith radio sits beside the sofa, and every photo hanging in the house refers to him.

"He is the father of independence, he is the national father, he is the father of all Malians," says his daughter Hatouma. The whole family now lives in an old colonial building in old Bamako, which the authorities allocated to the Keïta family three years ago.

There is also Fatoumata Keïta Diallo, the last of President Keïta's three wives still alive. They married in 1962. She had the president's only two children with Mr. Keïta, including Hatouma.

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They cultivate crops such as sorghum, millet and varieties of legumes. The names Gash and Setit derive from the names of two rivers (Gash and The Kunama language belongs to the Nilo-Saharan language family. Although we speak of the Kunama as a homogenous group, there are variations that

The old woman wants to talk over and over again about her late husband, although her throat pains her from a stroke. "He was nice, very nice," she said in a small quavering voice, wrapped in a large boubou covered with a pink scarf. "I won't find a husband like him anymore," she adds with a small smile.

In politics too, he was "above the others". "We need a new Modibo Keïta today, but you will not find any!", She slices in allusion to the new period of uncertainty where the country, plunged for years into a deep security and economic crisis and political, is described as at a crossroads after the last putsch to date, on August 18.

- "Mali continues" -

In this gloomy context, the memory of Modibo Keïta is associated with the great works that he launched, with the hope of development, with the youth of the country.

"Tomatoes, military shoes, milk, matches, textiles, everything was made here!", Says Maimouna Diakité. And then, "everything was sold off, everything was sold".

Today Mali is on its knees. A war against growing jihadists is ravaging the north and center of the country, corruption is rampant and the prospects for young people are almost nil.

"The Republic of Mali is born. Mali continues", declared Modibo Keïta on September 22, 1960. "All Malians must consider themselves mobilized for the construction of the Republic of Mali, homeland of all those who are firmly attached to the achievement of independence and African unity, "he said.

"Are we only independent today," asks Ms. Diakité.

ah-lal / stb

Two Malian soldiers killed in an ambush .
© MICHELE CATTANI Malian soldiers in Bamako on September 18, 2020 during the funeral of former President Moussa Traoré Two Malian soldiers were killed and six wounded Tuesday in an ambush in the center of the country, one of the hotbeds of violence that has bloodied Mali for years, said a security service official on Wednesday. The soldiers fell into an ambush between Douentza and Boni, he explained without mentioning the perpetrators of the attack.

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