A rebellion in northern Mali, followed by a military coup in the south, has shattered the veneer of stability in a country that was hailed for 20 years as a model democracy in turbulent West Africa.
Now Mali is facing twin crises, prompting regional and international fears that the north — currently controlled by jihadists — is a terrorist safe haven. And the politicians who are meant to be fixing the problems are bickering.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Susan Stamberg. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is on a seven-country trip through Africa, talking about strengthening democracies, building economic growth. Yesterday, she dropped in South Sudan - that's the world's newest country - to encourage the infant nation. But she warned of so many challenges ahead. NPR's John Burnett was in South Sudan when the secretary was, and he joins us now on the line from Nairobi. Hi, John.
Kenyan Alice Njeri knew by the fourth month that something was terribly wrong with her infant son, Mike. When the baby boy was in the hospital recovering from a case of pneumonia, the doctors told Njeri that he was paralyzed on his left side and mentally disabled.
It appeared that Mike would grow up severely disabled in a country that shunned children with disabilities as curses from God.
Mali is a country rich in culture, both old and new.
The banging of hammers on silver echos through the main crafts market in Bamako, Mali's capital. It's usually teeming in a place where you can buy anything, from silver earrings to batik fabric, all of it handmade.
And despite its remote location, Mali has enhanced its cultural reputation in recent years with an annual international music and arts festival in the Sahara Desert near Timbuktu, drawing both African and Western artists.