There are two legal systems in Mali, the ancestral traditional customs and the written laws of the state. In the community of Manincoura where we are doing outreach, custom still largely dictates land use and access. Land owners and tenant relationships are organized according to principles like kinship, seniority and respect for elders. Land is typically transferred through inheritance, and portions can be allocated to a family or individual belonging to the lineage.
When we began our ministry in the Muslim community of Manincoura we asked the elders of the village to give us a place to establish a center of influence. The village head promises to give us land. But that was just the beginning of the battle. Land acquisition can quickly become a contentious political, social and economical issue. People are aware of the importance of their land, and they do everything they can to protect it. Also, we know that the devil is not happy about our presence in Manincoura. He did his best to discourage and block our request for land.
Since making our request, we have prayed every day for our request to be successful. Every time we visit the village and talk with the elders, they assure us that they will give us a place. Village elders tend to be very slow in making decisions, especially the Malinkes. Everyone has to be there to make sure that nothing goes wrong because no one wants to be blamed. The village head is not the owner of the land. He has to consult the landowners. After a possible place is identified, the landowners need to be informed, and the head of the family has to call a family meeting to consult the other male family members.
The area we want belongs to a family named Doumbia. When our AFM videographer and field directors came to visit the Malinke Project, we took them to see the land. After a long process, the family decided to mark off a hectare of land to give us. That very day they came with all the village heads and the landowner to show us the demarcation. Fortunately for us, we met a group of surveyors and city planners who helped us to prepare for the formal, official system of property transfer.
The village is getting electricity, and the electric company had to destroy a number of houses to place their poles. Also, the city planners are creating a new layout for the village, leading to the destruction of even more homes. This has caused a lot of upheaval and hardship in the village, and it has been a strain on the elders. Many of them feel like they are letting go of their principles as they let go of their land.
Those whose houses where demolished were relocated, but they were not pleased to let go of their ancestral land. The hectare given to us was not touched by the renovations, because it is at the end of the village. The village heads’ decision to grant us the land was verbal, which in the short term is okay, but when they are gone there is nothing legal to prove that the land is ours. We asked the elders to sign a written document with us. It is taking time for them to process our demand, and we pray that it will be signed soon.
Thank you for your spiritual, moral and financial support. Please join us in prayer that we will achieve our goal of bringing the Malinke people to know Christ.