Mali

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“They Will Have to Kill Us First,” one of the twenty 24 Beats Per Second Program films, follow the members of Malian band Songhoy Blues’ fight to express themselves as they leave their homeland.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Andy Morgan | Daily Texan Staff

Documentaries probably aren’t the top priority for music badge holders out there, but with films that cover everything from Kurt Cobain to banned music in Mali, you might want to give them some of your attention. The 24 Beats Per Second Program features 20 films all music badge holders can access. The program will premiere the first day of the festival. If you want a break from standing in concert crowds, take a seat in a theater.  Here are four documentaries you’ll likely want to check out.

All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records

Russ Solomon originally operated his record shop, Tower Records, in the back of his father’s drugstore. Solomon would eventually expand Tower Records across five continents, establishing the store as a cultural powerhouse. In 1999, the company grossed $1 billion. But just five years later, Solomon filed for bankruptcy. 

“All Things Must Pass” is more than just a story about Solomon’s rise and fall — it’s a commentary on the ever-changing nature of the music industry.  

They Will Have to Kill Us First

When jihadists took control of northern Mali in 2012, they banned most forms of music, leaving musicians to choose between their art careers and their personal safety. In one night, the musicians of Mali became outlaws. The documentary captures Mali’s musicians’ resilience and determination to continue making music, even in secret and behind closed doors.

Follow Malian band Songhoy Blues as they fight to express themselves at risk of their own lives.

Montage of Heck

Eight years ago, director Brett Morgan set out to “reintroduce” Kurt Cobain to the world. After combing through home movies, drawings, recordings and journals, Morgan assembled his documentary, “Montage of Heck.” Morgan doesn’t shy away from Cobain’s personal battles with depression and addiction, but he also takes care to include funny and touching moments of Cobain’s life, leaving the audience with a complete and honest portrayal of the iconic musician.   

The film features never-before-heard audio diary recordings, read by Cobain’s family and friends. These hidden artifacts of Cobain’s life will shatter some of the many myths that still revolve around the troubled Nirvana frontman. 

Danny Says

From discovering The Ramones to becoming Jim Morrison’s sworn enemy, Danny Fields has had a whirlwind of a life. For decades, Fields worked as a journalist and then music industry executive, eventually earning himself the title “godfather of punk.” In the documentary “Danny Says,” the behind-the-scenes player finally goes under the spotlight himself. 

Audiences will follow Fields’ transition from Harvard to Datebook Magazine, where he made John Lennon’s “bigger than Jesus” comment famous. After Datebook, Fields went on to discover The Ramones, The Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop, making this film a must-see for punk rock aficionados. 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

BRUSSELS — Less than a year after Mali’s military was heavily criticized for seizing power in a coup, it will now start receiving advice from European experts on how to maintain control of its vast territory.

On Monday, the European Union officially launched a training mission to the African nation. Its goal is to make the disparaged Malian army good enough to patrol the whole country, including its huge northern region, where French and African troops are fighting to unseat Islamist rebels who used the coup’s chaos to grab control there.

The mission will “support stability in Mali and the Sahel, both now and in the future. Respect for human rights and the protection of civilians will be an important part of the training program,” said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Critics have accused the new Malian military government of being undemocratic and abusive. Still, the European Union ministers felt they had no choice but to offer support and oversight because of fears that — if left alone — northern Mali could turn into a new Afghanistan, with Islamist groups given free rein to hatch deadly plots carried out around the world.

The 27-nation bloc was so eager to help that it sent the first 70 advisers to Mali 10 days ago so they could hit the ground running when the decision was made. More EU military experts will begin arriving in Bamako next month and the training will begin in April.

The decision by the bloc’s 27 foreign ministers who were meeting in Brussels authorizes the deployment of about 500 people to Mali for 15 months at an estimated cost of $16.4 million.

About 20 EU countries will participate in the mission, which officials say will not be involved in any combat.

Some of those groups have imposed a harsh version of Islamic law, executing violators and performing punitive amputations on thieves.

International officials, including those in the EU, have turned to the enemy of those militants — Mali’s military government in Bamako, a former pariah.

That military’s record over the past year has drawn little praise. It ostensibly handed power back to civilians, but then in December it arrested the prime minister, who announced his resignation on state television at 4 a.m., hours after soldiers had stormed his house.

Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher for West Africa, Corinne Dufka, said those events fit the pattern of abuse by Malian soldiers since the coup in March 2012.

The goal now, EU officials say, is create an army not only capable of holding the retaken territory but willing to respect international law and civilian control.

A convoy of Malian troops makes a stop to test some of their weapons near Hambori, northern Mali, on the road to Gao, Monday Feb. 4, 2013. French troops launched airstrikes on Islamic militant training camps and arms depots around Kidal and Tessalit in Mali’s far north, defense officials said Sunday, as the first supply convoy of food, fuel and parts to eastern Mali headed across the country. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

TIMBUKTU, Mali — In a new phase of the Mali conflict, French airstrikes targeted the fuel depots and desert hideouts of Islamic extremists in northern Mali overnight Monday, as French forces planned to hand control of Timbuktu to the Malian army this week.

After taking control of the key cities of northern Mali, forcing the Islamic rebels to retreat into the desert, the French military intervention is turning away from the cities and targeting the fighters’ remote outposts to prevent them from being used as Saharan launch pads for international terrorism.

The French plan to leave the city of Timbuktu on Thursday, a spokeswoman for the armed forces in the city said Monday. French soldiers took the city last week after Islamic extremists withdrew. Now the French military said it intends to move out of Timbuktu to push farther northeast to the strategic city of Gao.

“The 600 soldiers currently based in Timbuktu will be heading toward Gao in order to pursue their mission,” said Capt. Nadia, the spokeswoman, who only provided her first name in keeping with French military protocol. She said that the force in Timbuktu will be replaced by a small contingent of French soldiers, although she declined to say when they would arrive.

On Monday, French troops in armored personnel carriers were still patrolling Timbuktu. In the city’s military camps, newly arrived Malian troops were holding meetings Monday to prepare to take over the security of the city once the French leave.

Islamist militants from Mali attacked the Amenas natural gas field partly operated by BP in Algeria early on Wednesday, killing a security guard and kidnapping at least eight people.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ALGIERS, Algeria — In a desert standoff deep in the Sahara, the Algerian army ringed a natural gas complex where Islamist militants hunkered down with dozens of hostages Wednesday night after a rare attack that appeared to be the first violent shock wave from the French intervention in Mali.

A militant group that claimed responsibility said 41 foreigners, including seven Americans, were being held after the assault on one of oil-rich Algeria’s energy facilities, 800 miles from the capital of Algiers and 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) from the coast. Two foreigners were killed.

The group claiming responsibility said the attack was in revenge for Algeria’s support of France’s military operation against al-Qaida-linked rebels in neighboring Mali. The U.S. defense secretary called it a “terrorist act.”

The militants appeared to have no escape, with troops surrounding the complex and army helicopters clattering overhead.

The group — called Katibat Moulathamine or the Masked Brigade — phoned a Mauritanian news outlet to say one of its affiliates had carried out the operation at the Ain Amenas gas field, and that France should end its intervention in Mali to ensure the safety of the hostages.

BP, the Norwegian company Statoil and the Algerian state oil company Sonatrach, operate the gas field. A Japanese company, JGC Corp, provides services for the facility as well.

In Rome, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta declared that the U.S. “will take all necessary and proper steps” to deal with the attack in Algeria. He would not detail what such steps might be but condemned the action as “terrorist attack” and likened it to al-Qaida activities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and in the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.

Algeria’s top security official, Interior Minister Daho Ould Kabila, said that “security forces have surrounded the area and cornered the terrorists, who are in one wing of the complex’s living quarters.”

He said one Briton and one Algerian were killed in the attack, while a Norwegian and two other Britons were among the six wounded.

 

This picture released by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) shows French Mirage 2000 D aircraft flying to N’Djamena overnight Jan. 11-12, after taking off from the French military base of Nancy. The battle to retake Mali’s north from the al-Qaida-linked groups controlling it began in earnest Saturday, after hundreds of French forces deployed to the country and began aerial bombardments to drive back the Islamic extremists from a town seized earlier this week. 

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

BAMAKO, Mali — France claimed new successes in its campaign to oust Islamist extremists from northern Mali on Sunday, bombarding the major city of Gao with airstrikes targeting the airport and training camps used by the al-Qaida-linked rebel group controlling the city.

France’s foreign minister also said the 3-day-old intervention is gaining international support, with communications and transport help from the United States and backing from Britain, Denmark and other European countries.

The French-led effort to take back Mali’s north from the extremists occupying it has included airstrikes by jets and combat helicopters on at least four northern towns, of which Gao is the largest. Some 400 French troops have been deployed to the country in the all-out effort to win back the territory from the well-armed rebels, who seized control of an area larger than France itself following a coup in Mali nine months ago.

“French fighter jets have identified and destroyed this Sunday, Jan. 13, numerous targets in northern Mali near Gao, in particular training camps, infrastructure and logistical depots which served as bases for terrorist groups,” the French Defense Ministry said in a statement.

Residents of Gao confirmed that the targets included the city’s airport, as well as the building that served as the base for the town’s feared Islamist police, which — in their adherence to a strict version of Muslim law — have carried out numerous punishments including amputating limbs of accused thieves. 

But the intervention has come with a human cost in the city of Konna, the first to be bombed on Friday and Saturday. The town’s mayor said that at least 10 civilians were killed, including three children who threw themselves into a river and drowned trying to avoid the falling bombs.

French President Francois Hollande authorized the military operation, code-named “Serval” after a sub-Saharan wildcat, after it became clear that the advancing rebels could push past the defenses in the town of Mopti, the first town on the government-controlled side, which has the largest concentration of Malian soldiers.

The decision catapulted the world and Mali’s neighbors into a military operation that diplomats had earlier said would not take place until at least September. France’s defense minister said they had no choice because of the swift rebel advance.

On Saturday, the body representing nations in West Africa announced that the member states would send hundreds of troops of their own, including at least 500 each from Niger, Burkina Faso and Senegal, as well as from Nigeria.

U.S. officials have said they had offered to send drones to Mali and were considering a broad range of options for assistance, including information-sharing and possibly allowing limited use of refueling tankers. British Prime Minister David Cameron also agreed to send aircraft to help transport troops.

Junta leader Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo speaks to the press at junta headquarters in Kati, Mali on Saturday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

BAMAKO, Mali — The junior officer who overthrew Mali’s democratically elected leader earlier this month and dissolved the nation’s constitution made a public U-turn Sunday, declaring amid enormous international pressure that he was reinstating the 1992 constitution and planning to hold elections.

Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo added that he would organize a national convention to agree on a transitional government which will organize free and fair elections. What he did not make clear is when the convention would be held, or when elections would take place, or if he would remain president during the transitional period.

Sanogo’s announcement came as Tuareg rebels penetrated and seized control of the ancient northern city of Timbuktu, a move that deepens the crisis in the West African nation.

Tuareg rebels took advantage of the chaos surrounding last week’s coup in the faraway capital to take the town of Kidal, located 800 miles from Bamako on Friday. They seized the biggest northern city of Gao on Saturday — cities that never fell in previous rebellions.

Mali, once a model democracy, was plunged into crisis on March 21 when a mutiny erupted at the Kati military camp located around 6 miles from the presidential palace. Sanogo was one of the few officers who didn’t flee the camp when the rank-and-file soldiers began rioting, and he quickly became their leader as they broke into the camp’s armory, grabbed automatic weapons and headed for the seat of government.

His coup reversed 21 years of democracy, and sent President Amadou Toumani Toure into hiding. Toure was due to step down after the presidential election scheduled to take place in a month. Mali’s neighbors had given the country a 72-hour deadline to restore constitutional order, or face crippling sanctions. Sanogo’s declaration appears intended to stave off the sanctions, which were due to take effect Monday.

A senior adviser to the president of neighboring Ivory Coast said that the regional body representing states in West Africa was considering calling off the sanctions for one week. The information was confirmed by a diplomat from Burkina Faso, the country that is taking the lead in mediating the crisis.

In his declaration, Sanogo said, “We take a solemn promise to re-establish from this day on the constitution of the Republic of Mali of February 25, 1992, as well as the institutions of the republic.”

“Taking into account the multidimensional crisis that our country is facing,” he added, “we have decided that ... we will engage in consultations with all the actors of society in the context of a national convention in order to put in place a transitional body with the aim of organizing calm, free, transparent and democratic elections in which we will not participate.”

Legal experts say that his declaration is contradictory. If the 1992 constitution is reinstated, said law professor Malick Sarr at the University of Bamako, then logically the ousted president should become head of state again.Sarr said the putschists may be leaning on one of the articles in the 1992 law, which says that in the event that the president is unable to carry out his functions, a 25- to 45-day transitional period will go into effect before new elections are held.

However, the article clearly stipulates that the transition will be led by the head of the national assembly who would become interim president. When reporters asked the coup leader if he still considered himself president, he dodged the question, and turned to leave.

After seizing the strategic northern towns of Kidal and Gao, Tuareg rebels on Sunday besieged the fabled city of Timbuktu, taking their fight for a homeland for the nomadic Tuareg people to the last major government holdout in northern Mali. They penetrated its defense by late morning and by afternoon, residents saw pickup trucks brandishing the rebel flag zipping through town.

Residents contacted by telephone said they were cowering inside their homes as blasts from heavy arms and automatic gunfire crackled Sunday around the renowned Islamic intellectual center. Once they entered, residents said the rebels who are from the lighter-skinned Tuareg group allowed safe passage for soldiers from the darker-skinned Bambara ethnicity who agreed to leave the city, said a member of the military who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject.

The traditionally nomadic Tuaregs, who dominate the north of the country, have long felt marginalized by the Bambaras that dominate the nation’s south, and whose members are overwhelmingly represented in the junta now controlling the capital.

“We are hearing heavy weapons going off, coming from the south and east of the city. A part of the army abandoned the city last night,” said Timbuktu resident Mohamed Lamine early Sunday.

In Gao, which the rebels seized overnight, the insurgents were going from bank to bank trying to force their way into the safes, said resident Hama Dada Toure. And in Kidal, which is now starting its second day under rebel control, residents said that an Islamic faction within the larger rebellion was demanding shopkeepers take down pictures of unveiled women.

A hairdresser who fled the city said that he was told to take down the posters in his beauty shop showing different types of hairstyles, because the women were not covered.

In this May 17, 2010 file photo, a nomad from the Tuareg tribe of the Sahara Desert brings his herd to a team of U.S. Special Forces for vaccination. Al-Quaida in the Islamic Maghreb recruits Malians, including 60 to 80 Tuareg fighters, according to a security expert who spoke anonymously.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

SOKOLO, Mali — The first time the members of al-Qaida emerged from the forest, they politely said hello. Then the men carrying automatic weapons asked the frightened villagers if they could please take water from the well.

Before leaving, they rolled down the windows of their pickup truck and called over the children to give them chocolate.

That was 18 months ago, and since then, the men have returned for water every week. Each time they go to lengths to exchange greetings, ask for permission and act neighborly, according to locals, in the first intimate look at how al-Qaida tries to win over a village.

Besides candy, the men hand out cash. If a child is born, they bring baby clothes. If someone is ill, they prescribe medicine. When a boy was hospitalized, they dropped off plates of food and picked up the tab.

With almost no resistance, al-Qaida has implanted itself in Africa’s soft tissue. The terrorist group has create a refuge in this remote land through a strategy of winning hearts and minds, described in rare detail by seven locals in regular contact with the cell. The villagers agreed to speak for the first time to an Associated Press team in the “red zone,” deemed by most embassies as too dangerous for visits.

While al-Qaida’s central command is in disarray and its leaders on the run following bin Laden’s death six months ago, security experts say, the group’s 5-year-old branch in Africa is flourishing. From bases like the one in the forest just north of here, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, is infiltrating communities, recruiting, running training camps and planning suicide attacks, according to diplomats and government officials.

Even as the mother franchise struggles financially, its African offshoot has raised an estimated $130 million in under a decade by kidnapping at least 50 Westerners in neighboring countries and holding them in Mali for ransom. It has tripled in size from 100 combatants in 2006 to at least 300 today, say security experts. And its growing footprint, once limited to Algeria, now stretches from one end of the Sahara desert to the other, from Mauritania in the west to Mali in the east.