Not a single train has travelled on the line connecting the capitals of Mali and Senegal since May 17, 2018, when the company collapsed. Knee-high weeds grow on the track at Bamako station. But even today, many of the railway's workers -- unpaid but still technically employed -- still show up at the station, a colonial-era bijou in ochre stone, complete with clock and signs for the ticket office.
Since 2012, Mali has slowly slid into chaos as Islamic terrorist groups linked to al-Qaeda have gained ground. Over the years, the violence has swept from the country’s north. With many young people, mostly Fulani herders, now also struggling with unemployment, they are turning to the jihadist groups and joining their ranks in a bid to escape poverty.