Monday, May 04, 2015

Slightly Tipsy in Casablanca

  Having a lonely dinner overlooking a familiar view, drinking some excellent Moroccan red wine:  I am in the restaurant of the ‘BelleRive’ Hotel on the Corniche in Casablanca, on my way ‘home’ to Europe:  UK first for the month of May, then Sweden in June.

This place has both happy and difficult memories.  In June 2009 (see blogs) I was here with Keita who was then in a wheelchair, but he regained  the use of his legs through the radio therapy  that he received here: many Malians and other sub- Saharan country nationals avail themselves of the medical  expertise and facilities of the Maghreb countries: especially Morocco and Tunisia. This time it is I who am investigating some possible medical treatment, about which later perhaps.

But David has insisted that I post some pictures of this year’s Crépissage of the Great Mosque of Djenné, so I feel must try , albeit a little belatedly. ..

This year’s event distinguished itself by the presence of some Togolese UN soldiers  in Djenné to guard , somewhat ostentatiously , certain  UN personnel . Noone has ever seen UN troops in Djenné before but here they were, travelling about in a proper TANK and armoured vehicle with sub machine guns.  They seemed to be enjoying themselves at the ‘crepissage’ and told me there was nothing even remotely like it in Togo.


They were ensuring the safety of Olivier, a spokesperson for the UN forces in Mali, and a few of his colleagues, who were busy flying a drone camera over the Mosque during the crépissage,  something never seen before, and  a sideshow which nearly threatened to steal the thunder of the main event.
They had asked permission to fly the drone camera, and during Friday prayers the Imam of Djenné had sensibly told the population what to expect : otherwise a riot could easily have ensued. As it happened everyone was intrigued.

The Togolese UN tank borne troops rather stole the thunder for me too at the hotel.   I could not hope to compete  with my  two armed National Guards who were to keep watch during the night to ensure the safety of my few hotel guests who had come up for the crepissage.

The reason for my  somewhat unusual  decision to have the hotel guarded was that I had had a peculiar phone call from the security section of a major embassy in Bamako the day  before the crepissage. ‘Was I aware of anything  going on in Djenné, any panic at all?
Any unusual events in Djenné? Had I heard about any people leaving the town?’  The security officers were in possession of a transcript from a radio broadcast from Mauritania which gave the information in Songhai  and in Tamachek that ‘Djenne was in imminent danger of a terrorist attack ; that the population was in a state of panic and leaving the town  in large numbers for the safety of towns like Mopti.’ They sent me a translation of the transcript of this broadcast by email. I said I would look into it.

I phoned Babou Touré, one of the town councillors. ‘ Have you heard of any panic around here? ‘ Is anyone leaving town?’ Of course he had not heard of any such thing. Just to be certain I also phoned the Sou –Prefect, and he too had not heard anything. However, I  decided to  play safe and ordered two armed guards, just in case, not wishing  to poo-poo a  warning from such a major embassy’s security staff.  I now found  myself in the interesting situation of suddenly being regarded as the centre of intelligence operations in the area, because shortly  afterwards I  received a visit by the  Chef de Peloton,  Mulai, a charming  Arab from Timbuktu, who is in charge of military operations in and around Djenné. The Sou- Prefet had called his superior in Mopti about this, and he in turn had instructed Mulay to investigate. I passed on the report that I had received and was reassured that no one was leaving town, and  that there was no cause for panic.

And now, a week later, I am myself once more leaving Mali somewhat reluctantly,   on the eve of momentous events.  Will the peace treaty be signed on the fifteenth of this month? Mali is all but stable- the cease fire is repeatedly broken in the northern areas.  If the peace agreement is finally signed it will continue to be an uneasy peace alas...






Blogger David said...

Casablanca looking like a wet Sunday in an out-of-season UK resort there...when do you land in Blighty?

8:48 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Inshallah this afternoon David. Straight on to Cressida's but will ca1l tonight!xxS

8:56 AM  
Blogger David said...

Hurrah! Oh, and thanks for the pix and for conjuring the singular flavour of this year's crepissage, not as exclusively local as before, perhaps, with those BBC people and the Togans...still, it sounds like fun was had by all.

3:05 PM  

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