Friday, July 29, 2016


One of the problems about the administration of Amadou Toumani Touré which brought about his demise and ushered in the coup was the impunity of the Malian elite- there were certain ministers who had unquestionably lined their pocket with the state coffers and  faced with the proof of their crime all that ATT could find to say was, infamously: “but he is a ‘Père de Famille’! I cannot drag him before the judiciary, it would be too shameful for him. We must show some mercy.”  This passion for mercy runs through the Malian psyche and yes , of course mercy is a virtue but, surely,  impunity for crimes committed is  a sign of weakness and somehow cowardice for not wanting to deal with a pressing problem?
Keita was the kindest person I ever knew. When he died many people came to me and told me he loved even his enemies and that was true: he did forgive everyone, even the ones who in my opinion he should have brought to justice. He had a Sotralma in Bamako ( a small bus for local transport) When he became ill  nearly eight years ago now he entrusted the care for this small business first of all into the hands  of a young relative. This person took all the money and ran the Sotralma into the ground without any maintenance. Finally Keita took it away from him and gave it to a “friend” to manage. The same story repeated itself until the Sotralma was destroyed and meanwhile Keita had hardly received any profit from it. And these two people decided to behave in this way towards him at a time when he was in a wheelchair and fighting for his life!  But Keita forgave them- meanwhile I have always refused to speak to these two and I studiously ignore them whenever I run into them.  In my mind Keita was also too tainted by this Malian Mercy problem and we often had arguments about it.
I am now faced with this  same Mercy dilemma.   Acé (Hasseye) has undoubtedly stolen  in the region of £2000 from me since 2011 by  lining his pockets with certain of the payments for the electricity bills. He has then kept the letters of warning from the EDM (electricity board) from me and negotiated with them, using the fact that we are going through a crisis and that the Ministry of Tourism has given instructions to the services to be lenient with the hoteliers. According to the EDM he has many times told them to be patient: La Patronne will pay. But the fact is that La Patronne had already paid and he had pocketed the money. Of course it was my fault that I did not insist on all the receipts: but last year I was away most of the time because of illness. The day that I went back to Djenné last October while Keita was ill at Eva’s I was also gravely ill and I only just had the time to give Acé the money for the electricity bill before returning to Bamako: I wrote it in my diary: “To Acé: money EDM “– and the amount.  This was never paid, it is one of the eight bills that are missing.
My stepfather in Sweden thinks I ought to bring in the police. He also thinks that I should haul Acé before the EDM again to have the director repeat the claim that he has been there negotiating. I had decided myself not to bring in the police.  Acé is quite ill and has been suffering from a respiratory problem for the last couple of years. This circumstance, coupled with the fact that he is so much part of the very fibre of my life here made me feel that I must tread softly. I did ask him quietly to tell me the truth and we should somehow be able to overcome this together. But he refused and said that he absolutely had not taken the money. So what to do next? I wanted to sack him today but my two advisors Dra, the manager of the Campement Hotel and Cisse the Djenné tax inspector, both Keita’s closest friends, have now stepped in and although they believe him to be guilty they want me to reconsider for Keita’s sake.  So I have done nothing yet. But I do not believe I can just let it drop! It surely cannot be right? I do need to listen to these two – Dra and Cissé- they are more or less my only friends  with any clout here. Is there another sort of justice here in Mali? Should Mercy prevail at any cost? What would Keita say? And what would I do without Acé? It will be difficult here without him. He is an important part of my life here and he was here from the very beginning. This picture was taken by Keita in 2006 when the two of them went to Gao to by fridges and Freezers for the hotel. They are travelling past ‘The Hand of Fatima’ the mountain   peak by Hombori. (The other pictures by Birgit Snitker)
 It  breaks my heart that Acé has done this!

Later: Cissé has been back again and his advice is that I don’t sack Acé but that I cut his wages by 20%.  I should also remove any responsibility of any payments from him.  Maybe this is what should be done- it is certain that I have to try to hear Keita’s advice in this, and I know that he would advocate Mercy...


Blogger Tabor said...

I agree with your friend. I was going to suggest the same, cutting the salary and taking away any handling of money. It is too tempting and these poor people are too weak. I have lived in poverty cultures or cultures with little education and this story repeats itself time and time again.

8:21 PM  
Blogger David said...

Another extraordinary aspect of Malian life reveals itself here - I did not know about the quality of mercy nor that story about Keita's bus. The question is, how to introduce a sense of morality? Presumably you have been paying Ace reasonable wages, because I know that you've never exploited your staff (of course not). If some desperate story came out about a relative who needed the money, of course you would be understanding. But your sense of betrayal must be very strong and you are right to be angry.

9:08 PM  
Blogger mary said...

I do not envy you your predicament. I am sure that your friends are offering sound advice but if you cut his wages it implies his guilt and he is professing his innocence. I wish you well in deciding what to do but Ace is obviously an important part of your team.It is so very frustrating when you trust someone as you expect that trust to be honoured. This is not just a problem in 'poverty cultures'. How to introduce a sense of morality is a universal issue.

9:24 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

thank you Tabor David and Mary for your comments. I have decided to go along with the cut in wages idea. I am certain that he is guilty and I will tell him so too. I will also tell him I am keeping him on for the sake of Keita's memory - this is how I believe he would have done it- and for the long service he has given the hotel.I can also not very easily go against the express wishes of my only two allies here: Dra and Cissé who wants me to keep him. That would put me in a position of isolation. Now what is the most difficult thing is to try and continue as normal once this is over- how can I behave normally with someone I think has betrayed me to this extent? Specially since I already suffer from a very short temper!

2:20 PM  
Blogger mary said...

Well done. You have reached a decision. Explain this and then continue ever forward and try not to bear a resentment towards Ace. Model your attitude on the exemplary behaviour of Keita - think of his loyalty when faced with the bus sagas. I would find it very hard but am sure that you can, and will, rise to the challenge.

8:06 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Yes indeed Mary, that is the idea...but something of a trial. The thing is everything moves so fast here that very soon other problems will have taken over and it will probably have melted into the past.

9:28 PM  
Blogger jm.herraiz said...

It is certainly a dilemma. I think that, for many reasons, the mercy choice could be the best in this case. But, I also believe that, in order to rebuild that relationship in a solid way, he should confess his fault, ask for your forgiveness and accept the "punishment". That would be the perfect solution. But I understand that perfection is usually difficult to reach. The best luck, in any case, Sophie.

4:05 PM  
Blogger David said...

What's the story behind the second picture? You are performing some drama for the camera and I can't work out what it is...

9:36 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

we are just messing around-we had a lot of fun together...

10:00 PM  

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