This is what you can build….

When you have been the ‘mayor’ of a NEIGHBOURHOOD in Dakar and have enjoyed close ties with the president.

But wait!!!

This is only the home of your third wife and her kids! You’ve built another home for your other two wives and their children! Just so that you can spent two days at each of their homes. And I imagine  you have your OWN home where you spend the 7th day, your Sabbath day – man shall rest on the Sabbath, shall he not?! You’re actually allowed up to four wives in the Koran, but perhaps you’ve thought about the difficulty of dividing 7 (or 6 if you refuse to give up your Sabbath) by 4 and have shelved that idea for now.

This home you have also equipped with a Lexus for this third wife (the car in the pic), and a Mercedes, Cadillac and Toyota can also be seen parked outside the home – one of these for one your drivers to use to run errands, the other (imaginably the lexus) for when you come for your two-day visit and the last…I guess is an extra for when the other three break down!

When you have been the ‘mayor’ of a NEIGHBOURHOOD in Dakar and have enjoyed close ties with the president, you can also be in the process of constructing a swanky, five storied apartment building right beside this third wife’s home, one that you can potentially rent out to expats who can pay the exorbitant monthly rent, starting anywhere from $1000 USD (but perhaps you will build one apartment per floor at which point you can charge whatever suits your fancy and you know SOMEONE will pay it since the neighbourhood is a bit upscale, expat-ridden and well, secure).

When you have been the ‘mayor’ of a NEIGHBOURHOOD in Dakar and have enjoyed close ties with the president, you need not do a thing for that neighbourhood. In fact, you leave the neighbourhood in a worse shape than you found it, so much so that it becomes known as THE most dangerous neighbourhood in the city where one plays with fire trying to traverse it at night.

When you have been the ‘mayor’ of a NEIGHBOURHOOD in Dakar and have enjoyed close ties with the president, you enjoy your wealth in private and are afraid of people’s cognizance of your honestly acquired wealth.

I had to take these pictures in discretion but upon downloading them, I realized I was caught! See the curtains opening in the last picture? That’s someone looking at me taking them…oops! But I barely feel bad, this is what our leaders are doing to us in Africa. Imagine…the mayor of a NEIGHBOURHOOD (why do they even have those?) acquiring so much wealth! Only God knows what the president himself has chopped, if an ordinary mayor can become this endowed. I don’t even want to wrap my head around it…

The name of the neighbourhood is GRAND DAKAR, by the way. And most local people are afraid of even going there. I’ve taken the ‘car rapides’ through there a few times (and once at night with my laptop! Talk about innocence is bliss) and having not known, I never really cared. I would still take the bus through there (actually have to do it later today) but it just means I’m a little more aware about where I am and smarter about what I carry with me and even how I carry myself.

Anyway, this just gives you an idea of what people have access to in these our countries while most struggle to acquire the most basic things. Multiply this a few fold and you have the elite of Dakar/Senegal who have and continue to steal the country dry. And they can drive around town in their mercedes, lexes, bimas, escalades and range rovers, tinted windows up (so as not to let the odour of struggle waft in) and AC on, past people begging on the streets for loose change, past people selling oranges, random trinkets or newspapers, past regular, honest-folk hustling in the burning midday sun just to get lunch and possibly dinner, to their AC’d offices and homes without a care on their consciences.

But perhaps their consciences do gnaw at them, but they have perfected the ancient art of ignorance and can no longer see, hear or smell below their noses.

I see this home everyday, by the way. It is located right beside my office (which is why I was able to discreetly take photos of it from our kitchen window) which is located in a residential neighbourhood called Mermoz. There are various others like it around. And it’s not even the most upscale neighbourhood in Dakar!

Transport Strike in Dakar

2012 started off with a bang in Dakar, and I’m not just talking about fireworks! The taxis, buses (non-state buses ones) and the funky colored barely there mini-buses called ‘car rapides’ (that I often take by the way) all went on strike on Monday, January 2nd to protest the cost of fuel which was hovering around 825FCFA (about $1.6) per litre. Apparently, the price had gone up about 30% in only 6 months. It is said that most of this is in taxes which goes into the pocket of the president. It is also said that fuel is cheaper in Mali, despite the fact that Mali has no port and uses the Senegalese port to import its oil, meaning significantly higher transportation costs for Mali.

So the transportation people went on strike to signal their discontent. Except the people that were affected were not the ones that should have been. The president and his cronies, with their motorcades and ‘lexes’ and ‘bimas’, could not have cared less. It was the working peoples who had no other way to get around that suffered. I had left town on Sunday and was in Thies, planning to return to Dakar on Monday and was almost stranded there! I was with a colleague from a partner institution and luckily, she knew some dude who had a car and would be driving to Dakar the Monday night to be at work on Tuesday evening, like us.  According to my colleague, the dude lived just outside of Thies and would come by to pick us up after midday and we waited and waited. We didn’t leave Thies until just after 11pm! The dude probably left later than he told us (of course!) and when he got to the road, he encountered an accident-induced traffic that stopped all movement in either direction for some 3hours or so. We eventually arrived in Dakar around 2am, and to say I was tired is an understatement! I was hoping to get to work the next morning but it was not to happen. I woke up Tuesday morning and could barely move (I actually had come down with a cold – the house in Thies was COLLLDDD and I guess I didn’t dress warmly enough despite wearing all my clothes and wrapping my scarf around me for the two days I was there) AND the buses were still on strike so I messaged my boss and went back to sleep. I woke up later in the afternoon and cleaned the house for practically the rest of the day! Not only is it cold season here in Dakar, the cold comes with the Sahelian winds that lift sand, dust and everything in their paths so every exposed part of one’s home is continuously filled with dust, and since I hadn’t really cleaned in a few days, I had dust, dust, everywhere! So much for being sick and resting…

The picture below is what many  people used to get around (where they were available) during the strike days, at least in Thies….

 

Toubab Dialaw

Actually, that’s not really where we went, and this post is long overdue!

Toubab Dialaw is a tourist town about an 1.5hrs from Dakar – where we went was a fishing town called Yen, located just a few minutes before Toubab Dialaw, and not as touristy. The German Institute in Dakar was organizing a two day concert with Senegalese (and one German) acts around Toubab Dialaw and we thought it’d be fun for a mini-trip. It really was a nice weekend away, we stayed at the ‘abandoned’ house of some expat. There are such homes scattered around the area – beach-front homes built by monied expats who to abandon it (actually, they get a caretaker to watch over it in their absence) because they’ve returned home or visit once or twice a year. So those caretakers (like the one we stayed with) ask their friends (people like us) to come over and use the house, lol, otherwise it just stays there and collects dust. The owner of the house we stayed in is apparently not overly interested in returning to Senegal so until he (or she, i dont remember) figures out what to do with the place, it’s just there…

The ‘wow’ house is supposedly owned by some cement guy (not Dangote!), and it really is ‘wow’ indeed!

Happy New Year!!

Absolutely LATE New Year’s wishes, but better late than never as they say…