Sunday, January 9, 2011

2011 - Year of Peace?

All as normal here, although there have been some changes which are a little worrying.

New Years Eve was a normal day till I got a call late in the afternoon, my second death threat but I wasn’t too worried.  The caller was convinced that I was in my Czech friend Tomas’ house in Abidjan like last year.  I’m still trying to work out who has given my number to someone and doesnt know I’m not in Abidjan.  My close friends in CI know exactly where I am, but quite a few people I know I’ve told I’m in Aboisso, the nearest large town.  I’m fine for the moment, but keeping my ear to the ground, there are informants all over including here, kidnappings & deaths that aren’t yet reported.  Friends here have been great but warned me to continue to keep a low profile.  It makes it difficult, I’m’grounded’ and incredibly bored still waiting for the Mayor to give me the green light for the project.

New Year’s started at the Mayor’s house, a big reception, meal & a bit of dancing then his daughter who has become a good friend gave a ‘post-election’ speech.  His chauffeur drove me down to my host’s nightclub the other side of town.  We all had a good night, I now have a reputation for falling asleep there … I fell asleep at 4am, at 5am I was woken to be taken home. 

To my horror, a friend had gone home in his Toyota estate that I drive around, there was no transport except the back of someone else’s motorbike with my host driving it.  I’m paranoid about accidents now, my insurance is completely invalid due to the state of the country … everyone has left, even the Nigerian’s have gone, the Burkinabe’s are evacuating their Embassy this weekend.  I sat on the back of the bike for the 5km, yelling occasionally to go slowly before I arrived home.  It’s now a big joke that I won’t go near a motorbike!!!

I waited patiently for a meeting with the Mayor, then he left early on Monday for Abidjan as the Education Minister suddenly decided that school started on Monday rather than on Thursday.  I was devastated  it meant staying on, I had so many other things that needed doing.  I got a call from friends on the coast demanding to know when I was going to see them. 

Tuesday morning I got a 7 seater (takes 8 passagers) taxi to Aboisso where Attito (my cerebral palsy ‘brother’) managed to find me having gone to see his parents but had no idea I was heading away. I then got 3 other taxis down to beach.  Friends who have 2 hôtels there gave me a room for free, no clients around, even New Years they finished before midnight.  Everyone is fed up with the lack of economic activity, it’s so sad to see friends really suffering due to the chaos that’s going on with the Presidency.

I promised my hosts that I’d return for Thursday night when the Mayor was expected back.  Leaving the coast was a problem, absolutely no transport around.  I was also waiting for Paul, a Ghanaian fisherman who had promised some fresh ‘bar’ that I could take back with me.  Paul finally turned up at 1pm, I’d seen 2 vehicles since 8am and knew that I probably wouldn’t see anymore.  I walked with my pack and a plastic bag of 5kg of fish that I hoped wouldn’t go off during the trip; it was 3km back up to the canal area to find a taxi, in the heat & dust it was tortuous! 

The taxi from Samo to Aboisso I had to make it very clear that I’m not French, that led to a lady asking me to stop before Aboisso to eat at her house, I had to decline, but normally I would have followed her … she was really keen that I stopped at her village & I don’t believe there was any malice about it.  I made it back to Aboisso & went straight to maquis whose owner has become a good friend.  Chatted to her for a bit with a few drinks before heading back up to base, a bad move, I’d not eaten all day; I was offered another drink here before heading to the house where I crashed out immédiately !!!!!!!

The Mayor is now back, I was promised a meeting at 8am this morning,  yet again he cancelled at the last minute … I think due to stress that I found myself sleepwalking last night trying to get out of my bedroom … convinced that there was a light the other side of the door; it woke my hosts up - finally I came to & managed to open the door.  I’ve never knowingly sleptwalked before and it’s really shocked me.

Amnesty Int’l are in constant touch with me, I’ve had quite a few mails and am awaiting a call, the atrocities that are going on here are terrible.  A friend was talking to me last night about it all and that it’s getting worse not better.  I was offered an armed escort to Abidjan at the weekend by a few friendly gendarmes in a private car. I’m desperate to see Marcelline, the girl that was found on the beach 2yrs ago, a trafficking victim.  She’s in a centre in Koumassi the airport side of Abidjan's lagoon.  The other girls have left & she’s there alone, I can’t make contact with her by phone, I can’t get her out as she dosent have any papers so was looking for a safe way to get there.  I was offered the escort but it didn’t work out in the end as I wasn't keen going to Abidjan in an armed vehicle - gendarmes with kalashikovs.  I’m still keen to get into Abidjan to see her & am looking for an alternative way.  Most of the gendarmes & the military aren’t happy with the situation 63% voted for Ouattara but it’s the generals that are holding the keys to removing Gbagbo.

I don't care who voted for what, I just want the violence to stop ...

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