Mentao Refugee Camp. Image by Peter Chilson. Mali, 2012. Add this image to a lesson

Washington State University's Peter Chilson traveled to Mali for his Pulitzer Center-Foreign Policy borderlands project and unexpectedly ended up in a war zone. The resulting e-book, slated for release in December, chronicles his personal account of reporting on the 2012 summer coup and rebellion in Mali, building on his Pulitzer Center-sponsored reporting in West Africa.

In an interview with WSU News, Chilson recalls his arrival in Mali just days after a counter coup had been mounted against regular armed forces in south Mali: "I can hear all of this from my hotel—machine gun fire, mortar fire, it’s all going on...I traveled as much of the city as I could on foot and by car, but the army restricted the areas where the fighting was most intense." Chilson said, "there were lots of tense situations so I was used to negotiating my way through that…but I’ve never seen a coup.”

Chilson began traveling to West Africa in 1985 as a Peace Corps teacher in Niger, and has since published two books on the region. The Pulitzer Center-Foreign Policy e-book will be his third. The e-book is tentatively titled "We Never Knew Exactly Where: Dispatches from A Borderland in Africa.”

Chilson's reporting from Mali and the e-book are part of the Pulitzer Center-Foreign Policy partnership for a series of reports on borderlands, culminating in the publication of e-books on the topic. The work reflects a broader Pulitzer Center initiative addressing this topic on multiple media platforms and with a variety of approaches. See all Pulitzer Center e-books released to date.


Europeans drew Africa’s borders long ago. Today these lines are often deserted and sometimes dangerous. Mali is the legacy: A crumbling state, rump of ancient empire between desert and forest.


February 4, 2013 /
Peter Chilson
Peter Chilson discusses Mali, regional borders and migration issues at Washington University in St. Louis.
January 30, 2013 / Al Jazeera
Peter Chilson
Al Jazeera English's program "Listening Post" examines why journalists are finding it difficult to cover the story in Mali. It features an interview with Pulitzer Center grantee Peter Chilson.