On September 24, 2015 more than 2,400 people were killed during a stampede in Mecca, during the annual Hajj pilgrimage by millions of the world’s Muslims. It was the deadliest incident in the modern history of the pilgrimage.
At least 320 of those killed were from Mali, making it the African country hardest hit by the disaster. Because most of the the people traveling between Mali and Mecca used small travel agencies and not the government, the Malian government was unable — and seemed unwilling — to provide Malian families or the public any information about their loved ones.
On the day of the stampede, VOA Bambara spoke to the head of one of the travel groups in Mecca, and he described the horror of what happened and said he knew many Malians were among the dead. Over the next few days, this led to increasingly angry calls from Malians for the government to gather and release information.
VOA’s frequent requests for information from the Religious Affairs Minister and others in government, daily reporting on the event, and discussions in our Saturday call-in shows which broadcast families’ impassioned demands for answers, brought the government to take further steps, which eventually led to releases of information about victims.
This year, ahead of the 2016 Hajj, the government has vowed to more tightly regulate the travel agencies and work hand-in-hand with them to register and track Malian pilgrims.