It is 1.49 in the morning.
This will be the last sunset on my terrace for some time to come. We are packing up.
Tomorrow we leave Djenne for Segou.
Rumours are rife: The Rebels have taken the town Gosi between Timbuktu and Douanza- 40 dead, possibly all Malian soldiers. A Malian officer friend of Keita's, in hiding in Timbuktu, told Keita on the phone that the Rebels will arrive at Sevare at 5 am.this morning.
Gao has been ransacked and banks and private businesses looted and destroyed.
We have a couple of 'refugees' at the hotel tonight. A Malian father and grown son with their driver. They had been on a family visit in Sevare, but events took a nasty turn, and they decided to leave for the comparative calm of Djenne. On Saturday night about 23h they had seen the first convoys of soldiers and army vehicles coming in to Sevare from Gao. It was a pitiful sight, with many soldiers seriously hurt, some walking without shoes, saying they had not eaten for two days, some seemingly drugged or mumbling incoherantly, all totally demoralized.
The convoy, which also included civilians, kept filing past all night. The wounded were taken to Mopti hospital.
The worst blow to the Malian Army was the desertion of Colonel Gamo, a Toureg who had been the commanding officer. He announced his desertion Sunday morning on Radio France Inter. He took with him 500 soldiers and 300 Army vehicles. The Army has been left virtually without command and without ammunition.
The taking of Timbuktu was accomplished even before the rebels had time to arrive from Gao.
A large number of the soldiers in the Malian Army Camp were Touaregs, and they simply turned their guns on their Southern Comrades and took the camp, leaving little to accomplish for their Rebel brothers when they arrived.
It was a sorry evening at the hotel, with my Keita and our friend Levy the journalist overwhelmed with the terrible situation.
They feel totally squashed and humiliated. They feel that the world has abandoned them and that international opinion is hugely unfair. What they, and indeed I too, cannot understand, is that there has not been one single voice that has spoken up in defence of Mali. Not a single condemnation of the Touareg Rebellion.
Not a single friend has mentioned that the Touregs are the aggressors here.
Noone has mentioned the fact that terrible atrocities have taken place, such as the massacre at Agulec before the coup, where nearly a hundred unarmed Malian had their throats slit. As ATT rightly said at the time: if it had been the Malian Army that had committed this massacre, it would have been trumpeted across the world as a Crime against Humanity. However, it was committed by the Touaregs, a minority group of desert dwellers seen as 'Romantic Freedom Fighters' who have somehow managed to seduce the imagination of the world.
Why does the world not care about Southern Malians? Why are we completely abandoned? was the burning question tonight. Why does France invite Touareg Rebel leaders to be interviewed on their news channels? There is a huge sense of unfairness here.
Our fried Cisse joined the sorry gathering. 'It is all like a dream'. How can this be happening?' Noone understands.
Keita wants me to ask a question on this blog: Do the United Nations exist? If so, is it only for the rich nations?
We are too tired and confused to even sleep now, and Keita and I sit in our salon for the last time, having taken down our most precious pictures from the walls, packing cases scattered on the floor around us...