“Les Sacrifiés du Sahel”, on LCP: in Mali, the dull anger of soldiers and widows


It all started so well. Staff Sergeant Ibrahima, dressed in his parade uniform, marries a Fatimata with shining eyes, in her white lace dress. The happy newlyweds know nothing of the future that awaits them. Monsieur joined the ranks for barely three years and Madame innocently discovers the life of a soldier’s wife. “Happy marriage, may evil demons move away from young spouses”, preaches the mayor, as in a prophecy.

For 52 minutes, Modibo, an angry soldier, or Moussa, whistleblower beaten in the middle of the street, tell of the bankruptcy of a State that is sometimes absent, sometimes predatory

In Bamako, the Malian capital, everyone knows the fate that the war against terrorism may reserve for soldiers and their families. The documentary The Sacrifices of the Sahel, produced by journalists Peggy Bruguière and Marlène Rabaud give them the floor. The rare words of soldiers and widows, combined with those of other sacrificed – inhabitants attacked by armed groups, whistleblowers gagged after denouncing the failings of the State -, weave a web which, in its heart, allows to grasp the roots of this ever-expanding war. And this, despite international military interventions: five, since the start of the conflicts in 2012.

For 52 minutes, Modibo, an angry soldier, or Moussa, whistleblower beaten up in the middle of the street by hooded men following the filming of the documentary, recount the bankruptcy of a State which is sometimes absent, sometimes predatory, which pushes the villagers into the arms of armed groups, as well as the mismanagement of a staff which draws on the resources granted to soldiers to fight. “The hijacking is the cause of this macabre disaster”, regrets Modibo, whose face is blurred.

Terrible daily

After hearing him tell of the terrible daily life at the front – seven weapons for twenty men, the lack of ammunition and the predatory practices of his hierarchy – one wonders what happened to Modibo. This shooting, badly received by the Malian general staff, did he earn reprisals, as in Moussa? Questions remain unanswered, as do those on the number of soldiers who have fallen at the front in the past nine years, such as Habibatou’s husband, a widow to whom the State has simply given two bags of grain to make up for his loss.

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If it suffers from some contextual gaps, The Sacrifices of the Sahel benefits from the insight of a good cast of field researchers detailing with pedagogy the fundamentals of the conflicts that undermine Mali. Neither the military hierarchy nor the junta in power, since the double coup of August 18, 2020 and May 24, 2021, will provide their version of events, despite the requests of the directors.

Because, if the junta has multiplied the promises of the fight against corruption in recent months, “A dull growl has spread in the barracks and the putschists want it invisible”, emphasizes the voice-over. A law of silence which, in Mali, makes the testimonies of those who dare to defy it all the more necessary, as in this documentary.

Read also the tribune: Article reserved for our subscribers “Will Mali be the next Afghanistan? ”

The Sacrifices of the Sahel, documentary by Peggy Bruguière and Marlène Rabaud (Fr., 2021, 52 min). Released as part of the program “DébatDoc” and available on LCP-AN.

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“Les Sacrifiés du Sahel”, on LCP: in Mali, the dull anger of soldiers and widows

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