Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Have been bothered by a particularly fat, ugly and unreasonable petty official recently- an employe of what is called the INPS. It is something to do with social security and pensions for my staff.
I went to his office voluntarily the other day, thinking I'd better put my staff on the official books.
The ugly official glared at me across his desk and snarled:' We have known about your hotel from the very beginning. There is no point of lying. You have been operating illegaly since last December because you have not registered with us. I am the INPS, and I have the power to close you down if you don't co-operate!'
Somewhat shaken by this salvo, but determined not to let myself be intimidated, I responded, truthfully:' But Monsieur, I didn't realize I had to register! I am new here from a foreign country, noone told me about this! You could have come and seen me at any time to explain! I am not interested in lying to you and keeping you in the dark!'
The ugly official mumbled something that sounded unpleasant in Bambara, then he told me to come back the next day when he would have decided how much money I owed him.

The following morning Keita rounded up all our important friends in Djenne and all those with any clout in official government positions. They all passed by the INPS office and filed their complaints at his behaviour, flexing their muscles, including Abdraman, the manager at the Campement Hotel.
When I went for my midday meeting, the ugly official whas somewhat sheepish. I was sweetness itself and said all I wanted was to be a good citizen and pay my dues- which is true. The ugly official said ' You have a lot of friends in Djenne. They are protecting you'. Another meeting was called and I said I wanted to bring my advisors. 'Choose one of them' said the official. 'I don't want my whole office invaded!'


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