Thursday, December 8, 2011

crime and Punishment

After a brief moment of contemplation, li hing mui (thanks mom) and socks for the feetzies (it's cold) I can now successfully try to entertain my readers with a not so happy story.

As many of you have no clue about I was robbed a few months ago while on a 3 day hiking trip. Yes, the trip was epic and yes I could see three countries from where I was standing but the return to my hut was not so epic. I was with my fellow volunteer, Ben, who stayed at my hut the night before our departure. As I entered the hut I immediately knew something was wrong.

My immediate instinct was to check for Ben's computer, he had left it in my hut not wanting to trek with it. I handed him the computer and told him to check to make sure everything was still there. Turning to the back door I discovered where the culprit had entered. I generally use a string to lock the back door of my hut. I thad worked for the year or so I'd been in village why would it fail now. That day I discovered it cut and I was able to freely open the back door.

I went into a rush. Ben told me everything was in his computer as I broke the news that my hut had been broken into. I went through all of my belongings which I now began to notice how out of place they were. Knic-knacks were strewn across my table, clothes on the floor, and buckets moved. I keep my hut fairly orderly to unsure minimal pest damage and cleanliness for visitors, it's not very big you know.

Anyway, I found that the money I had brought out to throw a party had been stolen (40,000 cfa), Ipod gone (neve realized how much I missed it till it was gone), voice recorder, solar charger, batteries, and 3 bars of soap. I screamed for my father to come over, not the best decision as unbeknownst to me the perp was still in village. My Dad, the village chief, came to my hut and I explained to him in very angry Pulaar what had happened. Then, my brother came over to tell me how sad he felt. I felt a little helpless but at the sametime at ease with what had been taken as it was mostly trivial things which could, if wanted, be replaced. My rage stemmed from the invasion of privacy and broken trust that had resulted from the theft.

A meeting was called and immediately my voice recorder emerged. I played for my Father and Uncle's present the recording I had done with my Father about compost 4 months earlier. How they didn't already know it was mine I don't know. They now believed me and told me Boubacar Diallo, a boy from Guinea who had been helping to farm some fields and staying in the village for roughly a month, had it and was taping people talking randomly in the village. Attempting to hatch out a plan in secrecy, something nearly impossible here especially when white person is involved, they set out to catch Boubacar.

Fail. Boubacar whether he heard me yell, my father call the meeting, or got suspicious when my brother took the voice recorder I don't know but he fled behind the fence into the bush with an excuse to poo. I hoped he pooed his pants. Ha!

Anyway, the chase began and my village was dedicated to catching him in a very non-chalant way. My Uncle who had house the boy took personal responsibility to the next morning at dawn ride 30 km to Kedougou to place a reoport than back 60 km into Guinea to place a report with all the villages on the border and the police. I saw him later that same day and bought him some cookies. Unfortunately, I felt all his hard work was a bit futile.

Morning came the next day and left. The afternoon brought some excitement as an old man said he saw him headin gotward Kedougou. The border patrol along with the forestry, because only the forestry has a motorcycle, left on pursuit. Nothing turned up and I went home a little bummed but my father had hope. He had called a Fatia, or done a religou offering with all the religous leaders and elders of the area to inform their people about the thief and to pray he gets caught or dies. Intense I know it gets better.

A few weeks pass and I am in Kedougou for a radio show. I'm packing to go back to village when I get a call from a number I don't know. I answer, "Alo?" -"Mamdou? It's me Malal. We caught Boubacar." Me - "What!? You caught him? Where? How?" Malal - " Come see. Come now. Tell your uncle in the market."

I left immediately to the police where nothing happened because the theft didn't occur in Kedougou. I asked them to tell the police in my area to bring the thief to kedougou (thinking of course that it was their job. I told them about it). Nothin happened because the police in my area don't have a car or motorcycle. So. I left ot village.

Arriving at around sunset I fonud Boubacar sitting with my grinning father. I asked what would happen. They told me to wait until my uncle came back so, I went to bathe. Boubacar wasn't tied up and didn't look hurt but he looked tired, sad, and a little remorseful. As I showered I thought about how he was just a kid who saw an opportunity to have something he may only be able to dream of (I don't mean this offensively. Look into Guinea's status). I began to forgive the boy not in a religous sense but in a okay he did wrong he needs to pay but not necessarily by going to jail.

My uncle arrived and the meeting commenced, if you could call it a meeting. It consisted of humiliating Boubacar, telling him how shameful his actions were, and asking me to talk to him and him to talk to me. I wasn't having it and just wanted things to be decided and over. Unforunately, due to the time and Tebaski (a major Islam holliday) taking Boubacar to jail was out of the question for the next few days atleast, until Tebaski passed (2 days away).

Their first choice Tie him up to a tree or post until the holliday passed then take him to jail. He'd eat, he'd sleep, he just wouldn't be able to go any where. I wasn't a fan givent he immediate ridicule allready givent o the boy i could only immagine what would happen if he were tied up. Next and final option, Saria. Saria in Pulaar literally mean law and until today I didn't know what that meant. So, after some discussion with my advisor and my father and i agreed that this Saria would be the quickest and most acceptable puishment that would make everyone in the village feel like justice was brought.

Saria began at midnight with the showing of all the clothes Boubacar had bought with the stolen money. He then removed the stolen clothes he was wearing, in front of everyone, and put on the slothes he wore when he arrived. He was asked what would happen to him if he were caught stealing in Guinea. He said, "they ask you whether you like your foot or hand better?" My father now weilding a machete than asked, "well which do you prefer? Bring it forward?" Boubacar chose his left hand and my father raised the machete high and borught it down swiftly. Laughter erupted as my father stopped his swing just short of Boubacar's hand. The verbal abuse continued.

Until, one of my uncle's grew tired and called for the children to get sticks. Excited the children each brought a stick. A discussion broke out whether to tie Boubacar up. Thankfully, the decision was no. My unlce than, like something out of a movie, order the boy to sit on a map. He grabbed a the first stick and began beating Boubacar until it broke. Boubacar began crying and screaming with pain. The first stick broke and a second was taken swiftly. These step were repeated until Boubacar leapt with a yelp and began pleading for it to stop. He was ordered again to lay down on the mat. Compling Boubacar suffered again until the fourth stick broke and while the fifth came down on him he leapt again and plead for it to stop. They didn't so he bolted for the door. He ran through the village as the villagers followed for fear he might steal their bikes. Apparently beating and ridiculing is Saria.

I was astonished and intrigued. The people of my village thought nothing of it. They even joked and laughed at how he yelled in pain and congratulated my uncle on a good beating. The whole next day I heard how well my uncle did and how Boubacar cried. I also slept with my bike in the security of my locked hut and woke the next morning to do laundry.

Still shocked I didn't leave the village until the afternoon the next day. I was gone for maybe 3 hours and came back to find my back yard a bit of a mess. I thought, “Damn cat” and continued on my way to bathe. Then the greeting of, “Hey Boubacar is by the forage. Did you see him?” I replied no I hadn't and that you're not funny. Then, I began to think and opened my eyes. My back yard was a mess and there was an interesting space in the clothes I left to dry in the sun. That little SOB came back and tried to break into my hut again. Finding it was locked he took my shirt instead. I'm not going to lie I was scared and slept the next few night with my doors locked for fear of what he may try at night.

Boubacar showed his face in and around the area for the next 3 days before finally being spotted heading towards Kedougou. I haven't heard anything since but everyone is on the look out. I now lock my doors when ever I leave, sucks, but I do. I learned my village really does care for me and will go through a lot to make things right. I also learned that I should've shared the things I hid from my village (Ipod) because then they would've known it was mine and things wouldn't have gone so far. In the end, we have moved on and learned. Boubacar is no longer welcome in any part of my community and I know people are looking out after me.