Road to Bouza
My first assignment for the years was to observe elections for the Economic Community for West Africa [ECOWAS]. I was part of more than 120 accredited ECOWAS observers. I was stationed in the four star Hotel Gawaye in Niamey, the capital.
The Niger elections was interesting given that fact that it was being organised by the military that seized power from Mr. Tandja who refused to step-down at the end of his tenure in 2009. On the 18th of February 2010, soldiers attacked the Presidential Palace and ousted President Mamoud Tandja from office.
The journey to Niger itself was chaotic for the Ghana delegation of 18 people. Our flight was scheduled thus:
Accra-Togo [7hr layover]-Togo-Abidjan-Mali-Niger. The first leg of the journey could not happen as Air Ivoire was having challenges due to recent sanctions. Eventually we made it to Niger after 2-days at the Accra airport and a layover in Ivory Coast.
The crust of this blog however is the second round of the elections in Niger as the first one did not produce a clear winner as per the rules of the elections.
The second round of voting was scheduled for the 12th of March 2011. This time, I was scheduled to observe from Bouza, in the north-east of the country.
My group was made up 3 teams spread our in the Tahoua Region. After briefing, our convoy of 3 4×4’s and a spare headed out North on route N16 on the 11th of March – a day before Election Day [E-D].
I think the writing of this piece was born out of the names of the villages along route N16.
I will do my best to give rough translations as best as I understood the names as most if not all were in Hausa – the predominant language of the region.
So here goes:
The next town that caught my attention was “Dadin Kowa –“for the ‘sweetness’/good of everyone. Indeed the town though just a drive through however you could feel the “sweetness” of everyone. The people waved [indeed, one of the few that waved at our convoy] of four cars].
Then we passed Korie Marowa. I recognize “korie” to mean “sack or turn-away” but never really got the second part of the name.
Sabon Gari – “New Town” is very much in every city in West Africa I dare say. In Accra you have “Newtown”, “new gbawe”; Ashanti Newtown is Kumasi, etc. And Sabon Gari did look new. The road was recently asphalted and the markings on the road were all new and shinny!
Kallon Mota was my favourite town name along N16. The name translates as “Watching Cars” and that is exactly what everyone seemed to be doing. There were no commercial activities as were on the other towns we passed. Inhabitants – the few I saw were just gazing at the road. I am not sure how the name came about but it empahsises the truism of power of names!
Doutchi – a more phonetic version of “Dushi” in “Dogo Dushi”. Well, this time there were stones. What caught me eyes were the fact that, irrespective of the stones everywhere, there were signs of active cultivation that made me admire the enterprise of the people of Niger and more of people in Doutchi. You will find that effort has been put into collecting and arranging the stones to make way for the crops. Where the stones were too small, they crops just have to battle it out with the stones.
This phenomenon made me question if Ghana and indeed other more fortunate states have the right to complain of poor rain, “bad soil” and the like. If fact here is a people so determined to make the most out the situation they find themselves. A classic case of “if life offers you a lemon, make lemonade”. I duff my hat to the people of Doutchi and Niger!
Yes, “tomorrow” was the next exciting town and name. Goubey! The town looked deserted and it had the feeling that everyone was waiting for Goubey – Tomorrow!
Montere – “we have blocked” was funny. Do not ask me what they have blocked because I won’t be able to say.
Garin Maiyodo was the last town I remembered before taking a nap into our nearly 10-hour trip. Garin is “town” but Maiyodo loses me.
Generally I think the names of the town were beautiful and very much characteristics of the places – at least from the outside. One day, I could do a road trip to spend at least a day in each of these towns and communities on Highway N-16.
I will leave out my experience of the “mission” from this writing- I will leave them for my memoirs one day.
While in Niger, do not forget to buy yourself the best dried meat ever! Klichi! Klichi is thinly sliced sun dried beef. There are usually 2 flavours- the plain-just-salted and the chilli-flavoured. Either goes well with some chilled “sweaty” beer, wine or liquor.
If you are smart in your packing you can take quite a bit of Klichi out…if the security finds it…give them the “I got in love” rap.