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March 23rd, 2012
04:15 PM ET

A message for Mali

By Erin Burnett

There was a coup in the gold rich african country of Mali on Wednesday night. The military toppled President Amadou Toure after a gun battle in the capital of Bamako. President Toure is unaccounted for but reportedly safe.

The United States strongly condemned the violence calling for the immediate restoration of constitutional rule.

In recent years, the US has feared that al-Qaeda and other militant groups were gaining a stronghold in Mali and President Toure was considered an ally in fighting terrorists.

But the generals behind the coup said he wasn't doing enough.

There are a lot of reasons to hope that democracy wins and that violence doesn't cause harm to an already desperately poor country. A country that is also very personal to my own family.

My sister Laurie – if you watch the show you probably know her as Jasper's mom – lived there for three years while she served in the Peace Corps.

When I heard the news I called her and we reminisced about that time.

I reminded her, as I always do, about when I visited and a boa constrictor slithered, slowly, heavily, ponderously over the backs of our knees one night. She still denies this happened – although our other sister backs me up.

She shared another story too. Laurie had bats. 42 of them. They slept in her hut during the day and went out, at night, while she slept.

She spent a lot of time cleaning up the batsh...guano and used it to fertilize her garden.

She was thinking about how symbiotic that relationship between her and her 42 bats was. I thought it was strange she counted them.

We laughed about those stories. But we remembered more serious things too.

There was the Muslim festival she took me to where Christians and Muslims celebrated together...without violence.

Here's hoping Mali can figure this out.

It may seem esoteric to much of the world, but as we've learned the hard way. Extremism in remote places can end up hurting us all.


Filed under: Erin's Essay
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. nate

    I too was a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali in 1980. Unfortunately,the country has not progressed very much since I left. I would like to know where Erin gets the "gold rich country" quote from. A "desperately poor" country could not be so, and in fact is not. I am not at all surprised the Mali has ended up as it has; corruption and mismanagement have been going on since independence. Such a shame as the people are some of the nicest in the world (not including the Islamists).

    August 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Reply
  2. Steve L.

    How did a "boa constrictor" travel from south or central America to Mali, which is in Africa? No species of boa constrictor is NATIVE TO AFRICA! It was likely an African rock python, or a ball python. Erin Burnett has lost a lot of credibility with me, although she was most likely told that it was a "boa constrictor" by her sister, who obviously was not very well-versed on the local wildlife.

    March 28, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Reply
  3. Eva

    Rafael Castro? Who's that, a cousin of the other three Castros (Ramon, Raul, and Fidel)? You should rectify the mistake or you're no different than Fox News.

    March 23, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Reply

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