Cross-border health centre opens
The mood as the white ribbon finally floats to the dusty ground is one of celebration. Kafougouna Koné, the scissors still in his hand, is beaming. And it’s small wonder – with his symbolic ribbon-cutting gesture, the Malian Minister for Local Communities has just opened the new cross-border health centre located between the villages of Wanian in Mali and Ouarokuy in Burkina Faso.
The first of its kind, this project has come about as part of the African Union’s border management programme. To deflect conflict, the programme works to establish and demarcate land and sea borders as well as promote cross-border cooperation. Since 2008, the Federal Foreign Office has provided around 15 million euro to support the programme, which is implemented by Germany’s Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, or GIZ. Speaking at the opening of the new centre, German Ambassador to Mali Karl Flittner also commended the initiative as: “an important and sound basis for peaceful coexistence between the people living on both sides of the border”.
The goal of regional reconciliation
Coexistence was not always peaceful here. Koné and his Burkina Faso counterpart, Toussaint Abel Coulibaly, still remember the border conflicts that for many years marred relations between their two countries. In the 1980s, Mali and Burkina Faso frequently found themselves on the brink of war. Both sides are determined that those times must never be allowed to return. The health centre has a key role to play here in furthering regional reconciliation.
At the health centre’s opening ceremony
The political will to move in this direction is shared by the local people. From the surrounding villages on both sides of the border, they came in large numbers to see the German-funded centre. These are the people who will use and run it together in the future. In the new health centre, whether they are from Burkina Faso or from Mali will no longer matter. Mamadou Diarrassouba, head of the GIZ project supporting the AU border management programme, was at pains to point out that the centre would thus not only provide improved healthcare but also help bring the local people closer together.
Events surrounding the opening ceremony provided a demonstration of how the new centre might manage to build these bridges between the border regions’ inhabitants. Registrars from both countries jointly conducted two weddings – of Malian-Burkina Faso couples.
Last updated 07.03.2012