A Sad Moment

This is my last post from Burkina Faso, at least for now. I intend to make a few more posts from Paris, and then on my return I’ll try some closing thoughts, but this adventure and my coverage of it is drawing to a close.

Last night, I stopped by my neighbor Soumane Touré’s house to say goodbye. He’s the labor leader I interviewed a couple of months ago. I kept meaning to get back but life got in the way. He’s really a fascinating guy. He came up with another very interesting story about a rural community where his party won the local elections back under Compaoré. The CDP worthies in the town were upset, but his administration was so successful in bringing together the various ethnic groups in the area that Blaise overruled any attempt to disrupt things or bring about new elections. Soumane pioneered the idea of public annual reports to the assembled people of the town on finances, project plans, and so forth, to preserve transparency. It worked so well there that the CDP mayor of Ouagadougou, now the MPP Minister for Internal Security, introduced the process here in Ouaga. Anyway, this community is in the news now because, without Soumane’s party at the helm, the recent mayoral election there led to a huge riot that featured the city offices being burned down by an angry mob of people who felt disenfranchised. I had thought this was pure politics, but Soumane said there was an ethnic issue as well, since the traditional inhabitants of the area are now outnumbered by relatively recent immigrants, giving them the sense of having lost their country. Kind of like Brexit, he pointed out. No arsons in Britain yet, though.

This morning, I got up really, really early to trek down to Pissy (great name) to see my friend Ibrahim Karambily and his band of public-spirited citizens celebrate their clean-up operation at the health center. The place really did look a lot cleaner.

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Here we are around the pump well in the extremely neat courtyard of the center. It is a quite impressive place by the standards of the local primary health care centers I visited in Guinea 30 years ago. They have a maternity unit with a couple of dozen beds, decorated with useful health information posters, one notably a product of USAID:

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The one on the top discusses methods of family planning; it was a little surprising given the conservative climate in our country over the last 30 years to find USAID still in the family planning business. Or maybe the poster is old. The poster on the bottom tells you how to avoid getting Ebola. There were no cases in Burkina during the last outbreak, but the thinking these days is that Ebola can pop up again any time anywhere in the region; that given all the human cases in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia over the last two years, the disease is deeply emplaced in the animal vectors and is not going to go away. So you have to be careful to step on human outbreaks as soon as they occur anywhere in the region, to avoid the situation we had before where there were thousands of cases.

At the end of the tour of the bright, clean facility, Ibrahim and his fellow activists handed over a stockpile of cleaning equipment:

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That’s Ibrahim in black on the right, the big tall guy in the middle is the doctor in charge of the center, and the others are members of the association. The doctor expressed his appreciation for the gift, given that the center is supposed to be self-funding (aside from the salaries of a doctor, a midwife, and a nurse) with the very small fees people pay for doctor’s visits (300 CFA or about US$ 0.50) and similarly small prices for bandaging and other supplies. They don’t even have a pharmacy; for medicines you have to go to one of a number of for-profit pharmacies nearby, and if something is really critical and the person can’t pay, the doctor digs down into the cash drawer. So every little bit helps.

After bidding farewell to Ibrahima and his band, I stopped by the Thiams to bid farewell:

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They were going out to a ceremony – it is the middle of Ramadan today – but I was able to greet them and thank them for all their wonderful hospitality during my stay here. I was also able to make a present to Djibi:

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Yes, that’s right, I gave my beloved bicycle to the Thiams. I hope they get some good use out of it. I tried and tried to sell the thing. Everybody was like “oh, I love your bike, you must give me your bike when you leave”, but when the time came to get out the wallet, they didn’t like it so much. I thought I had sold it to a guy at the maquis day before yesterday but this morning he called up and said he didn’t have the money. And the price we had agreed on was less than half what I paid for it.  I’m only slightly bitter about this, as I say, I hope the Thiams get good use out of it. Bikes are really a good choice here, but since they are generally only used by people who are too poor to afford motos, and kids, there is a lot of sales resistance. So I ended up buying two bikes here and giving both of them away.

I rode the old one earlier today, having dropped the good one off with Djibi. I went out to lunch down the street and then went to the bank. It was substantially smaller, slower, and harder to pedal than I remembered.

So anyway, that’s pretty much it for Burkina Faso and me, at least for now. I’m sure I’ll have plenty more thoughts later, but for now, sniff sniff, it’s goodbye. Going to go around the neighborhood now and say goodbye to everyone.



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