06 October 2005

Back in Bouaké

It has been over two weeks since I arrived back in Côte d'Ivoire. It has been an interesting two weeks as we are back this time for at least two years before we are even thinking of returning to the US. As I mentioned in my last posting, Angelika and I flew to different cities in West Africa and we met up in northern Côte d'Ivoire one week ago. We are now back in Bouaké and this morning we are listening to the rain come down as we are in the thick of our rainy season. We have a new contingent of French soldiers who arrived last week and so we are in the process of helping the 10th mandate learn how we would like them to treat this place and what the conditions are for their staying on this campus. As you can well imagine, they do have the upper hand when it comes to bargaining as they have bigger guns than we do. No worries though, the US Ambassador sent an attaché up the other day to check on us, or at least that is what he told me! He did say that it was his first time up to Bouaké since he had arrived in Côte d'Ivoire. He was impressed with how calm and laid back things are in the north (rebel territory) as opposed to life in Abidjan.

Right now things have got to be tense in Abidjan as nobody is agreeing as to what will happen after the 30th of this month when the presidential term of 5 years will come to an end. Normally elections would have taken place by then but they have not been organized because the rebels in the north have not laid down their weapons. Of course they will not lay down weapons until the government supported militia lay down theirs. The government supported militia will not lay down their weapons because they claim that they have none. To turn in weapons would be to admit that they had some and on and on it goes. It sounds a little bit to me like the children’s story, “This is the House that Jack Built”. Of course the results of Jack’s house building was only a little spilt milk and a kiss that may or may not have been wanted. If that could only be the case here we would be very pleased. Unfortunately we are waiting for something far more serious to happen in the next few days and weeks.

Upon returning to the Bouaké campus last week I heard that Kalifa Coulibaly, one of the former workers at ICA who cleaned the classrooms in his later years, had died of an illness that had taken him at some point this last May. He had returned to his home in Mali, where he died earlier this month. Kalifa was a good man and a good friend of mine. He was one of those jovial, always ready to talk and joke kind of people. Any news that needed dissemination would do well to pass by Kalifa. He had ways of making you feel good even when you knew you should be angry with him. I knew Kalifa however, more as a friend rather than an employee. I am sure that some of you reading this could tell stories about Kalifa that would make us all laugh. He was that kind of guy. I am surely going to miss him. I have not heard yet anything concerning a memorial service at the C&MA Campement Church where he was a member but I am sure something will be done there to remember his life and to encourage his wife and family.

Just yesterday Angelika and I took a walk around the outside of the campus just to look at the wall, the gardens and to greet anyone who might be out on a Sunday afternoon. As we were walking we came upon a herd of cattle and their herder. We exchanged greetings and began to talk about the war and different people we know and he knew. As we talked he mentioned that he was from the same village in Mali as Kiribé, another one of the former workers at ICA. I had heard that Kiribé had passed away sometime last year. As we talked the old hearer, whose name was Mama, he told us of how he started out with just one calf and now has a small herd. He spoke about Kiribé and how he followed the “Jesus Road” whereas he had always followed the road of his father, Islam. He regretted that fact that Kiribé left for Mali just after the war began but as he said many times, our lives are in the hands of God. He told us of being out with his cattle the day that the Ivoirian military tried to take Bouaké and how he had been told to sit down and that they were going to kill him. He had asked to do his prayers first and then the soldiers walked off and left him sitting there. One hears many stories like this these days. Of course the ones which end in death are often not told and families are left wondering where their family members have gone and what has happened to them. Tough stuff. And that was just one walk around our place here in Bouaké.

Again, please don’t forget about Côte d'Ivoire. The next few days and weeks are looking to be troubling for this country. It will be interesting to see what takes place as the actual president is refusing to accept a transitional government and is not talking with the rebels. He is actually refusing any negotiations with the West African leaders who have been encouraging him to step down as president following the 30th of this month. H.K. Bédié, the former president of Côte d'Ivoire, has put out a call to all of his supporters to go out into the streets at the end of the month if the actual president doesn’t step down. It is not looking good. The French are once again asking about how they can use the campus as a point of assembly for any eventual evacuations of Europeans in Bouaké that may need to take place if the government troops decide to attack Bouaké or other points north of the demilitarized zone. So is life in our part of this crazy world.

1 comment:

Levi said...

Hello, Rod and Angelika

This Levi Manitsas writing from Madras Conservative Baptist Church. That's right we have relocated and now we are in beautiful Madras, OR . It is good to hear from you.

I will keep writing and updating.

God Bless!!! You are in our prayers.

Levi,Kathryn, Matthew, Tyler & Parker