Monday, January 12, 2015

A Turbulent Day (so far, and it is only 14.30!)

Yes, even by Djenné standards today has been exceptional – and as we know, life here is “the square root of Emotional Rollercoasters” in  Birgit’s apt phrase.
It started quite sedately this morning at the Djenné Manuscript Library with the judging of the Calligraphy Competition with the theme: “Islam; a Religion of Peace”. I  choose the three winners among the 25 entrants together with the other judges which included Samake and five Djenné Koran Masters and Calligraphy experts. This happened without incident and more about this tomorrow when we are having the Prize giving ceremony at the Manuscript Library...

During the meeting at the library I received a phone call from the Commandant du Peloton- that means the head of the Gendarmerie here.  He was at the hotel and wanted to see me urgently “Nous avons un petit problem” as he put it. When I arrived at the hotel I found the Commandant with another gendarme  sitting  with Papa and a young Fulani man. The latter had put in a formal complaint against Papa regarding an unpaid debt of 500 000FCFA (770E). He accused Papa of Escroquerie ; that is to say fraud. The commandant said that he knew that Papa worked at the hotel and he had decided to come to see me before arresting Papa and simply throwing him in jail- which is what would happen unless the money was found today.

I was told that Papa had borrowed the money from the Fulani on behalf of someone else. The Fulani in his place had also borrowed the money from someone else: the forth link in this chain of debt. Papa had apparently told the Fulani that he would be repaid in three days, but he had not been able to come up with the money. This was now several weeks ago.

I said that judging from the facts that had been presented to me it was not a question of fraud but only of non- payment of debt;  which to me did not seem to be the same thing.  Papa had thought that he was going to be able to repay the money but he had been mistaken. The commandant said that it was not the whole story and that there were other details which made it possible to label it ‘fraud’ and that he wanted Papa to tell me himself. So I took Papa aside, bringing Baba also for support .  I asked him to tell me the whole truth: what  were the details that the commandant was  talking about? I said that unless he told me the truth I was not willing to help him. Papa came up with something outlandish  about false bank notes; saying that it was  the Fulani and the Commandant who wanted to put him in jail and that he was innocent. Little by little I surmised that Papa had lent the money to a person who was fabricating false bank notes. Papa knew about it and he had been told that he would get a cut in the profit if he could come up with the money; at least that is what I believe happened. I kept asking Papa: ‘What is the truth in this? If you are innocent please tell me what actually did happen and I will consider helping you.’ Papa could not come up with anything convincing; in fact he said nothing. I took Baba aside and asked his opinion. He said: “He is not clean in this affair”. I now  called Keita who once he had been given the details  told me to keep out of it and to have nothing to do with it whatsoever. ‘But what are we going to do? I objected. ‘We need a chef! We can’t let them throw him in jail!’ Keita  said that for a start there would be no problem finding a chef in Djenné to replace Papa: there are at least three good chefs queuing up  for the privilege  of becoming the only chef in Djenné who  is being paid regularly and secondly Papa would find the money anyway: I was absolutely not to get involved.  Meanwhile Papa was wandering backwards and forwards in the court yard talking on his mobile  phone.

I now went over to the Commandant and thanked him for his consideration in coming  to see me and giving me a chance to pay for Papa but that we had decided that we were not going to pay. Papa then stepped in and apparently his emergency phone call had been fruitful because he said that he would come up with the money before nightfall. The Commandant, his collegue and the Fulani went on their way and I was just about to sit down and catch my breath for a moment to digest this momentous event when Bob turned up; and another drama, this time of life and death  unfurled...

Bob the tailor is one of my oldest friends in Djenné- see blogsearch above-. Malimali has helped him many times to find money: to buy a sewing machine; to set up his atelier in town, to pay for a hernia operation etcetc. Bob the tailor is the brother of Alpha: the longsuffering,  kind but rather hamfisted tailor who  is now working in the MaliMali studio. When I saw Bob arriving I knew already what his visit was about. It was a question of their third brother who is gravely ill.

The elder brother of Bob and Alpha had gone into the bush to harvest millet. While he was  harvesting he developed a tooth ache but did nothing about it apart from taking paracetamol . When he returned from the harvest about ten days ago his whole  throat and neck had swollen up and he was already suffering from a serious infection. Bob and Alpha took him to Djenné hospital where after consultation with a doctor a senior nurse lanced the abcess and he was prescribed and administered antibiotics. He was to return every day for the redressing of the wound.

A couple of days later there was no improvement and apparently a new type of stronger antibiotics were prescribed which were to be injected. Bob and his brother had spent their last money- meanwhile the state of the brother was rapidly declining  and he was slipping in and out of consciousness. Yesterday Alpha was in tears at the sewing machine. The wife of the elder brother arrived , crying at the studio to ask help from Malimali: they had all been up all night by the sick bed.   I called Keita in Segou and asked him to get involved. He spoke to the staff at the hospital and  promised that  Malimali would take charge of the medical expenses from now on. He was satisfied that what could be done was being done for the man. Keita said that even if he were to be taken to Mopti hospital there would be little else that could be done for him apart from dressing the wound and giving antibiotic injections. We told the family to be patient , to let the medication take its course and to pray.

Therefore, when I saw Bob  today I was hoping he was bringing good news about an improvement. Alas no. He came with an evacuation order from the hopital here- his brother needed to go to Mopti urgently. This morning when they removed the dressings they discovered that the neck and the throat had more or less been eaten away. Bob was crying and saying he did not have the money to bring him to Mopti. I called Keita, who said that  he had spoken to the hospital staff and in fact there is no way that he is going to be able to survive. To evacuate to Mopti  might bring us huge expenses at the hospital. I wanted to know whether if it was certain that the patient was going to die, it would not be possible  just to administer some morphine or other palliative care? Keita said that the medical staff are programmed to try and keep people alive and that they would  put him onto whatever life support machines are available; they would only communicate the cost of the treatment. Oh dear, what to do??

Bob said he had someone who was willing to lend their car for the transport to Mopti- he needed only the money for the diesel. I decided in consultation with Keita that it was necessary to give some money in order for the evacuation to Mopti- only really for the feelings of Bob and Alpha. We gave 50 000 FCFA  (E77) from Malimali- it will give enough for the diesel and for some treatment in Mopti. I said we could not give anything else.

This is a sorry tale indeed: this  man is on the way to Mopti hospital as I write this. But even if  he makes it to Mopti he will die quite needlessly from a simple case of caries! There is no dentist in Djenné. People with toothache either  have their tooth pulled out or else they go to Mopti or Bamako but even then the dentistry is fairly rudimentary but it is a question of lack of material and  not of knowledge: there are plenty of qualified dentists in Mali!


Blogger David said...

Terrible indeed: only by such vivid examples will we get to understand what life in Mali is really like, which is why your blog has to take book form at some time or another.

I love it that you put up the crying little girl from Malick Sidibe's studio every time something like this occurs. Perhaps it is the inner child of Sophie the stylish Parisian catwalk model?

Was it good for you to see Boubokar Keita (have I got that right?) in Paris? For me it offset the nasty taste left by leaders of repressive regimes, like the Saudian, who are hardly paradigms of free speech, to put it mildly.

Juliette's Rory has some very good thoughts on all that, which have helped me to clarify mine (ie that I still don't quite know what to think beyond the atrocity of the murders).

12:25 AM  
Blogger toubab said...

Yes, David, it was good to see IBK -Ibrahim Boubakar Keita arm in arm with Hollande and Netanyahu, and it was certainly quite a scoop for him and something for his photo album. He is losing his support rapidly here though...people think he is flitting about all over the world in his controversial jet when he should be at home sorting out Mali. This time I think they are wrong- it must be a good thing for Mali that he went and that he was seen in such a prominent posititon.
I would love to hear what Rory has come up with - is he still writing somewhere or do I have to wait until I see him and Jules?

3:18 PM  
Blogger Gilliane said...

A turbulent day indeed. What a lot of stress in one morning! My thoughts are with you Sophie. I hope tomorrow brings some calm.

9:02 PM  

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