Unlike ageing rock star and SJW Bono, I have never been to Timbuktu, although many people, including my sainted mother, have told me to go there. Timbuktu is the fabled chief city of what was supposed to be a great African kingdom, once upon a time. Today it is more or less in the middle of Mali, one of those countries President Trump rightly described as "shitholes".
Until 1960, Mali was a part of l'Afrique Occidentale Française (French West Africa), a colony of, errr, France. As in the rest of post-colonial Africa, things started to go downhill once the French let the local people run their own railroad. I'm speaking metaphorically, as to the best of my knowledge Mali doesn't actually have a railroad any more. Half of the population is under the age of 16. The average Malian woman has six children. Barely a third of the population can read.
To make matters worse, ancient divisions of race and tribe turned into a shooting war which has heated up, cooled down, then heated up again in a vicious cycle ever since independence. Seems that the Tuareg and Arab minorities, who are concentrated in the northern part of the country don't like being ruled by black Africans. Whoda thunk it? There were major rebellions in 1963 and 1990, but the most major of all occurred in 2012, when the northern rebels went from being a secular nationalist movement into a militant Islamist insurgency.
In 2015 the warring parties signed a peace deal, which has proved meaningless. Violence has continued to escalate. Just last month, four separate attacks killed scores of people. According to an article in this week's Economist (from which the previous two paragraphs were excerpted), Mali's vast northern desert is a breeding ground for jihadism. And "insecurity", as the newspaper calls it, has spread to the central part of the country, including Timbuktu.
Reporting from Timbuktu, the anonymous writer of the article -- the Economist never runs bylines -- says, in what must be the best putdown of the year, so far: "...all is not well here.... At one time tourists used to pour into Timbuktu to ride camels across the desert. Now most of the foreigners at the airport wear army uniforms. The city has said goodbye to Bono, a rock musician who once played there. But in most other respects things have got worse."
Bravo, anonymous writer! That brilliant bit of snark puts you in the lead in the competition for Walt's prestigious Golden Finger award for 2018. Keep up the good work!