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Shattered Dreams of Times Square: Brave Young Africans and the Salafists

12/31/2012 03:22 pm ET | Updated Mar 02, 2013
  • Birama Konare Author; Managing director, Binthily Communication; Son of former Mali President Alpha Oumar Konare

The youth also dream of joyful crowds, confetti, Frank Sinatra, "New York, New York"... celebrating New Year's Eve, carefree, with a bunch of friends, a glass of champagne in one hand, dancing and saying, "Happy New Year." Why should this privilege only be reserved to the West? In Mali, similar to the rest of Africa, the youth dream of a brighter future. Regardless of the threat of Islamists, the military have their putsches with their subjective power. According to poet Birago Diop, we are millions to believe in our Africa, "springing up anew, springing up patiently, obstinately, whose fruit bit by bit acquires the bitter taste of liberty."

The under-30's represent 70 percent of the Malian population. Since the military coup, March 22, 2012, their existence already affected by unemployment and illegal emigration has considerably been overshadowed. Military power has split the nation, Islamists that practice sharia occupy 2/3 of its territory. The youth are the main victims of public stoning and amputations without anesthesia. Oh my God! This is not a scene from A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini on Taliban barbarism. Oh my Mali! Yes, in the country of Oumou Sangaré and Ali Farka Touré, where it is henceforth forbidden to listen to music. Yes, in the homeland of Salif Keita aka Domingo and Frederic Oumar Kanouté, where we can no longer play soccer. After 20 years of democracy, Mali, a beneficiary of the Millennium Account Challenge for its good governance and democratic progresses, has shamefully lost it all.

My lack of understanding is colossal. Questions cause sparkles in my mind. What have we done to God's fanatics? Why do they attack the youth and wome ? Why do they want to impose on us a way of life? Who are they to decide who lives or dies and in a violent manner, disdaining what modern society has defended as human values since post-World War II?

At night, in bed, I mediate. Sleep has left me. I purge my hurt through writing. But I confess that I am no longer inspired. My creative cap has also left me. My mind inhabits painful thoughts. And sparkle again: Have they forgotten the role that young Africans play in the fight for freedom? In the early '90s, a multi-party wind blew over sub-Saharan Africa. Women and children took the streets demanding that tyrants depart, many become martyrs. Twenty years later, this same scenario is taking place in the Arab world. They are millions to take over the streets and social networks. Is this the sin of the new generation, activism, this contagious virus?

I have no doubt. The oppressors fear the youth because we incarnate an opening to the world. We are connected physically and online. We speak the same language worldwide to say "what's up bro" be it boy or girl. The antithesis of an obscure society filled with medieval values where men are forbidden to succeed. As hope is like adrenaline for the youth since we tell ourselves that "we have the future in front of us." In consequence, this better be useful to us. In Mali, we definitely do not plan on spending our days in a mosque. What for? Pray for a just world ? There are other ways of reaching this objective.

In Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal, occupied territories by Salafists, the youth revolt daily. Those from the same districts create spontaneous groupings in football fields playing a boom box, similar to Brooklyn or Harlem playgrounds, to defy and mock their executioners who attack with whips. To the south, Bamako is occupied by the junta. On social networks, loud cries amidst bombardments of Kalashnikovs, refusal of any form of oppression and invite the army to go and liberate the north of Mali rather than getting involved in politics are expressed.

In the Malian capital, activists by day, the youth remain carefree at night. This might be their driving force: not to fall into fatalism. Rich kids and those less fortunate, find themselves in nightclubs, some reflect their pain through dancing, others drown themselves with booze as to forget their distress. Those who do not like this lifestyle or those who are poorest than the poor find themselves out on the streets, in group gatherings drinking tea to reinvent the world and imagining over their twenties how they count on getting rid of evil and its instigators.

So it's not a surprise that across the world, we symbolize courage and bravery through Malala Yousafzai, Claudette Colvin, Hector Pietersen, etc. Like Malala, who last year said in a talk show, she imagined that at times the Taliban would follow her on the streets and stop her. Her only desire was to take off her sandals and hit them so that they could understand that what they were doing was not good. Rare are adults that will have the courage to express themselves in a lawless state. If parents are forever adolescents, then the youth are hopelessly outraged.

For all these reasons, no youth should feel discouraged. It is possible to dream of studies, jobs, travels, etc. -- to get married on a New Year's Eve at Times Square and party until dawn and not sleep to avoid nightmares. To hope and fight individually for the entire human race, remains our greatest weapons to eradicate extreme decadence.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and The World Economic Forum in recognition of the latter's Global Shapers initiative. The Global Shapers Community is a worldwide network of city-based hubs developed and led by young entrepreneurs, activists, academics, innovators, disruptors and thought leaders. Aged between 20 and 30, they are exceptional in their achievements and drive to make a positive contribution to their communities. Follow the Global Shapers on Twitter at @globalshapers or nominate a Global Shaper at http://www.globalshapers.org/apply.

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