Sunday, October 9, 2016

Return to my Koulango family

Sheep waiting with us at the northern Bondoukou police barrier
After a long six hours in the massa, trouble with the police for some of my fellow passengers south of Bondoukou followed by further problems with the anti-drug gendarmes at the northern Bondoukou police barrier, we rolled into Bouna.  It's a lovely drive, Tanda is a pretty town, stunning valley after Bondoukou then driving alongside the National Comoe Park sometimes spotting monkeys on the road.

Thrilled to see the hills of the Boukani region as we sped ever northwards after Bondoukou, I was looking forward to seeing my friend's family in Bouna.  Previously met the extended family in early April 2016 towards the end of the fatal conflict that occurred between the Peulh (Fulani) and Lobi people; where an estimated 70+ people lost their lives (official figures put it at just over 30 but it was indeed far more!).
Photo taken whilst in Bouna in early April 2016 after the conflict
Arriving at the bus station, the town had a different atmosphere to my last visit.  People were going about their business, the refugees had dispersed and returned home after almost three months in camps and there was a positive, calm air.  Greeted by my Koulango friend's younger brother as my friend was in Abidjan having had lunch together the day before in Abengourou.  We walked back to the house, part of a 'cour' behind closed gates, the extended members of the family all live in separate dwellings around a rectangular courtyard.
One of the three refugee camps in April 2016 in Bouna, housing 3,200 refugees in town

A wonderful welcome as I came through the gates, the different members of the family came out to meet me and then scurried around to get his house ready for me.  No one was aware that I was arriving!  Totally spoilt, I walked into the sitting room, air-conditioned with a television showing the 2016 Olympics from Rio.  I felt as if I was in total luxury, we don't have much at the centre for CREER not even tiled floors!  After a much-needed shower to rid myself of the dust, I headed five minutes away to an excellent restaurant where I'd eaten in April to be greeted by the staff there.

An early start, I needed to have my meetings finished by 9am to have any chance of getting transport to Doropo and onto Burkina Faso.  Firstly with the head of social services, he was thrilled to see me back waiting on his office doorstep since before 8am, unaware I'd come back to town and we had an interesting meeting, he was keen to listen to our ideas to assist trafficked children that found themselves in the Boukani region.  As Ghana and Burkina Faso are both under 100km away, it's an area that can find traffickers with children crossing the border.  Next was the police, again it all went well but unfortunately the officer I'd met in April who agreed to be CREER's representative for the region was on holiday in Abidjan.

As I left the police station, my friend's brother was outside on a motorbike talking to a friend of his, I hopped on the back of the friend's bike who drove me back to the house whilst a seat in a taxi was being organised for Doropo.  Quickly packed up my things much to the sadness of the family particularly the children, the youngest of which told me he was coming with me!  The taxi arrived within minutes, I said my goodbyes and left ... to be driven around town looking for other passengers for the 2,000CFA 1.5 hour journey north to Doropo, the nearest town to the border.
My taxi north to Doropo

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