Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A lighter mood

Mali qualified for the African Cup today after a two- nil victory over Algeria in Bamako this afternoon to the jubilation of the Malian people.  It was about time something cheerful happened to this bruised nation! Meanwhile all the  people held in quarantine in Kayes after the ebola case of the little girl and the grandmother have been released:  noone has been contaminated, Alhamdilullah!
In the region of 500 other people are under surveillance, all connected to the chain of possible contagion from the cases at the Clinic Pasteur. No one has developed any symptoms so far.  The doctor who had treated the diseased imam at the Clinic is still ill but in a stable condition. Will Mali be able to extricate itself from the epidemic? We are holding our breath and praying.

There are the occasional guests here at the hotel so Dembele and I decided to give the Malinke chambre superieur a facelift.  I think it looks tres jolie, non?


Thursday, November 13, 2014

I Object!

Joe Penney of Reuters in his  article yesterday on failing to make the important point that these last cases were dealt with in the private sector, and that the reason for this debacle is most likely to be a cover-up by the private clinic. Instead he throws totally unwarranted blame on the whole  Malian Medical Corps, by using an anonymous source:

"This case shows the lack of training of doctors in Bamako. This training should have been done six months ago," one aid worker told Reuters, asking not to be named'

What nonsense. I object to this scurrilous  treatment of the Malian medical corps who may not be perfect but certainly know  what is required in order to deal with an Ebola case. If there have been misdemeanours, please put the blame on the correct  culprit, i.e. the Clinic Pasteur in this case!  This is just typical of the sort of knee jerk racist ideas that sits so comfortably with the international press and community: Malians are useless. The Army is useless, of course everyone know that. So let's just continue now on our well worn track down the same alleyway and suggest, this time without the least bit of evidence, that the Malian medical Corps is as useless as its Army!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Outrageous Private Sector Blunder!

It is not fair!
‘Mali awaits anxiously the all clear’ wrote the Guardian just a few  hours ago on its internet site. One hour later, the Malian health authorities confirm a new death from Ebola. This time in Bamako, at  the prestigious Clinique  Pasteur, the clinic for the Malian elite and the Bamako Toubabs. A nurse died last night. She had been in close constant contact with a patient who had been cared for at the clinic a couple of weeks ago. The patient  was from Guinea, and had suffered from an unspecified disease. His body had been repatriated to Guinea. The case has nothing to do with the previous case of the little girl and the grand mother..

Mali has been waiting with bated breath to be able to announce the joyous news tomorrow that not one amongst the 107 people under surveillance has been contaminated. The Malian health authorities have conducted themselves in an exemplary manner and everything has been done according to the book. They should be warmly congratulated, as should the ordinary Malian people who have changed their way of behaviour. I travelled on a Bani bus last week from Bamako to Djenne Carrefour. When we stopped for food in San I noticed several plastic wash basins with soap and Omo for people’s use outside the public toilets and by every food station. I saw every body washing their hands thoroughly before eating.  

But this new case- in fact these two new cases (!) - are different. They are in the private sector. Panic will spread in the expat community in Bamako. I do not know the whole story, but it certainly looks as if the Clinique  Pasteur is guilty of severe negligence. How could they even treat a patient from Guinea without taking the necessary precautions and without testing for ebola? I do not believe this would have been the case in any  public health centre run by Malian health authority officials.
The nurse who died last night, as well as the patient who died two weeks ago,  were treated at this clinic for several days . The body of the Guinean was repatriated to Guinea for burial, all without any precautions whatsoever!!  And meanwhile people have been coming and going as normal to the Clinique Pasteur! It  looks like a cover-up. It is outrageous.
I am curious to see the reactions among my Bamako friends in the international and diplomatic community who use the Clinique Pasteur on a daily basis.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Any Ol' Iron?

Yes, Yes! I am here!
Only I have had no internet connection for almost a week.
However, have kept busy and have added another feather to my cap, and another job description to my ever lengthening CV. I can now add Haulage Contractor  to the other professions I have exercised. 
These include in vaguely chronological order: Baby Sitter, Singer; Potato harvester (with my cousin Eva. We got the  sack almost straight away because we  put an awful lot of potato leaves on top of the potatoes in each crate...), Waitress, Go-Go Dancer, Disc Jockey, Grapefruit/ Orange/ Strawberry/Gooseberry/ Avocado picker, Laundry worker, Movie Extra, Fashion Model, Party arranger, Florist, Fashion Designer, Theatrical Prop Maker, Interior Decorator, Photographer, Motorcycle Courier, Receptionist, Sculptor, Journalist , Academic, Painter, Potter, Installation Artist, Hotelier, Textile Designer. I am certain the list is much longer.
I think it might be worth adding it to the list of remedies on sleepless nights: rather than counting sheep or ex-lovers one could of course also count ex- professions. The rules are simple:   one has to have earned money for the doing of the  particular profession, even if it is only a little and only once.

But I digress, as is my want. Let me get back to the point, which the launching of my career as a haulage contractor, if that is how to describe what we are doing?...

It is like this:   Some time ago I attacked the Dutch Prince Claus Foundation in connection with  the vast amount of metal and plastic tree surrounds that are littering the Djenne archaeological sites because of a tree planting scheme initiated by them that went wrong. They have turned out to be thoroughly good sports and have taken this problem very seriously indeed. They have in fact  employed me and  Malimali to get rid of the said tree surrounds! They are to be dug up and buried in deep graves on the outside perimeter of the archaeological sites where the trees were intended to protect erosion.
I have enlisted Ace as a foreman for the 15-20 labourers and the work started last week- a two month project will clean up the country side around these sites and ensure that people and animals are not cutting themselves on rusty metal, as well as returning the scenery back to its original peaceful aspect. Hurrah for Prince Claus of the Netherlands! 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Compaore's departure

A selection of commentaries on on  the news that Compaore has tended his resignation::
‘Moved to tears’ Happy to see this historic day for the people of Burkina Faso’
 ‘Congratulations to the great people of Burkina Faso’
‘My most heartfelt condolences to the MNLA who has lost its Papa. Sniff! Sniff! May Beelzebub welcome you all in hell with open arms!’
‘People of Burkina, thank you for having exerted vengeance for the death of Thomas Sankara in a good way’
‘Congratulations to men with integrity, everything has an end. Shame on you Blaise who thought power was eternal. We want to see more such popular  revolts in order to preserve democracy in Africa. Me, if I were in your your place I would prefer to die rather than depart in such a way’....

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The end of Blaise?

Nabéré Honoré Traoré, the head of the Burkina Army, announces that the army has taken control in Burkina Faso after thousands of protesters attacked the National Assembly today in a culmination of two days of intense demonstrations in Ouagadougou and nation wide- furious that Blaise Compaore is intending to once more  change the Burkina constitution in order to be able to remain in power for a further five years. What is it with these African leaders that make them incapable of giving up power?
Compaore has been the President  of Burkina Faso since he himself came to power in the  coup he staged twenty seven years ago against his former brother-in -arms, Thomas Sankara, the Che Guevara of West Africa- brilliant demagogue and hero of the downtrodden but ultimately a dangerous firebrand in the eyes of the West which welcomed Blaise and his coup with relief  and has seen in him something of a pillar of stability- he has  gained a of status of a respected  elder statesman, taking on the role of mediator in the Malian crisis- a position which has always sat badly with the Malians who have never understood where Compaore has gained the right to lecture Mali on Democracy.

I travelled to Burkina for the first time in 2007 with Keita. I was curious about Thomas Sankara, and wanted to talk to people about him- but I quickly understood  that it was a taboo subject. It has been clear to everyone for 27 years that Compaore has Sankara's blood on his hands, but no one has dared to speak. 'Will Blaise now be held responsible or taken to justice over Sankara's assassination?' asked someone on Malijet tonight.
Well, at the moment it is not quite clear whether he has been forced to leave power, the spokesman for the Army has not said so. But it is my guess he will not dare to hang on to power now in the face of the Burkina people's mass protest, and we have probably witnessed the end of Blaise Compaore's reign.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


As everyone now knows, Mali has had its first case of Ebola. A two year old girl died in Kayes last Friday, a day after having been admitted to hospital. She had come from Guinea, and had travelled for a thousand kilometres on public transport with her grandmother while she was showing symptoms, including heavy bleeding from her nose. It appears that the grandmother had hidden her from the border authorities as she was entering Mali travelling on a lorry. She had had a short sojourn in Bamako, in the heavily populated area of Bagadadji, at the heart of Bamako, before continuing in a public bus to Kayes, where she was finally admitted to hospital  where she died the following day, having at first shown signs of recovery which were unfortunately unfounded.

The WHO is treating this as a very serious issue because of the fact that she travelled on public transport through large areas of Mali while she was contagious. My Keita and several other Malians I have spoken to feel that if this grandmother is lucky enough to survive (unlikely since she cared for the highly contagious toddler for several days)  she should be shot for High Treason. I am afraid that I can almost sympathize with that sentiment...’It doesn’t matter how poor and uneducated, she knew what she was doing. Noone in Mali is unaware of the risks involved, and everyone has been informed for months about how to behave to avoid contagion’, fumes Keita. ‘Not only that, but had she handed the girl in at the border, for instance, instead of subjecting the poor child to the hardship of the road, she may have survived! ‘

 Well, it is done now.

All we have to do is to wait. The incubation period is between 2 and 21 days. Noone of the over 80 people who have been traced and who are kept in quarantine in Bamako and Kayes have so far developed any symptoms.

‘I suppose it's the filmic insidious nature of it that makes the public flesh creep’ wrote David in his comment to last week’s blog post, putting his finger on the nature of this beast: we don’t know exactly when and how and if the contagion will spread, and we can’t see the enemy who is creeping about silently and invisibly doing his deadly task while everything is seemingly normal.

So far the Malian health authorities have acted fast and thoroughly to contain the situation.  I am in Bamako for a week and I notice that measures are also put in place by the private sector to safeguard against the spread of the disease: last night I went to ‘The Sleeping Camel’, that favourite Bamako watering hole, and at the entrance a member of staff squirted anti bacterial liquid onto my hands before allowing me entry.  Many other hotels and restaurants are taking this and other safety precautions.

And now we just wait...