Tunisians landed safely at Tunis-Carthage airport on the first flight to Tunis from the Malian capital of Bamako since the Malian coup, staged last week on March 22, 2012. Tunisair flights to Mali were suspended the day of the coup, while the airline monitored the situation. About 40 Tunisians, as well as other nationals fleeing Mali, were on the Tunisair flight.
Tunisians have been staying at hotels in Bamako since the coup. Abedallah Triki, Tunisia’s secretary of state in charge of the Arab and African Affairs, present in Mali for a “working visit,” was also stuck in Mali until today.
Tunisia’s Foreign Affairs ministry announced that it was in constant contact with Tunisians in Mali, including Triki. The ministry also stated that it was working with Tunisair to ensure that as soon as flights resumed in Mali, an airplane would be sent to them.
Nadia Faleh is one of the Tunisian citizens who arrived today with her family at the Tunis airport. Faleh expressed her happiness after returning to Tunisia safely. “What we went through was scary, people were stealing and we were hearing gunshots, however, the Tunisian embassy staff in Mali were really helpful and we were in constant contact with them. Mr. Triki was also present. The situation was complicated… we could not tell who the government was nor who was in control. We were confused, everything was blurry,” she said.
Faleh hopes the best for the Malian people. “I only want what is best for their country, they are good people and we will return there as soon as things settle,” she explained.
Tarek Ben Salem, Tunisian ambassador to Mali since last August, described the situation in Mali as critical and completely lacking in security. “Circumstances there were hard and difficult; the situation was not stable, we were confused, we did not know what was happening in the country, people were looting for example, people robbed the Libyan embassy and other stores or cars,” he said.
He also added that what made the situation even more difficult was the complete absence of concrete information from official sources.
“Tunisians were obliged to stay in a hotel together, there were 40 Tunisians. Some of them were there by coincidence, but we helped them and everything went well,” he added.
It was early Thursday morning, March 22, 2012, that Malian President Amadou Tomani Toure fled the Presidential Palace when the Malian military took control of the capital city, Bamako.