The recent attacks in Brussels were horrible and personally were a setback for myself and others around here. It’s very hard to believe how evil these acts were and I feel for the people in Belgium as they seek to stand strong and move forward. It’s hard to believe how many people needlessly lost their lives. The support pouring out for Belgium is spot on and I hope it continues to grow and that these acts can forever be prevented.
At the same time, it is hard to not compare the response to what happened in Belgium and what happened here in Bassam. The attacks here were as deadly, if not more than those in Belgium. We will never know the true number of people that died here as many were killed in the water and the strong Bassam currents washed them out to sea to be buried by the ocean. Even the government here has admitted we will never know how many people the ocean buried that day. People leave villages never to be seen again and nobody knows to ask if they are okay or not. That is life in Africa. And that fact is accepted. It is a sad reality that we cannot know all those that lost their lives here. They deserve better than that.
And people here are suffering too. I have seen this every day. Veronique was noticeably different after the attack and eventually had to go to the hospital due to severe fatigue. I can’t imagine the thoughts running through her head as the attacks took place at the beach where she works on the weekend and where her kids play. It was exhausting, and now, unfortunately, she has malaria. She is fine but it’s a lot and there isn’t much support beyond standard networks of friends and family.
Similarly, my good friend Appo has not returned to work at La Pailotte since the attacks. Several people were killed there and he helped guide many to a hiding place. He called me Monday to talk and we went and had coffee. His mind is deeply troubled. He said he thinks of me as an older brother and looks to me for support. I said I will be there for him, but he has little support to get through this time. He can’t sleep, can’t work, and now wants to return to his village to farm peanuts. Prior to this last October, he like many other Africans had not been to his village for over ten years. In October I told him he had to go back and I helped him do it. Now, he feels like it is where he should be for good. I can’t blame him: growing peanuts and living in the village sounds good to me too.
Many people here are losing work too. They ask me to come eat at their places to support them now that work has dried up. I am doing all that I can but it’s not enough.
Just like for Belgium, I also want Ivorian flags flying abroad, heads of state making speeches in support of Bassam, and robust international support when it’s needed most. Brussels needs it and so does Bassam. Sadly, there was not one flower arrangement sent from a western country at the memorial in Bassam. Did they not know it happened? Liberia sent one.
At the end of the day, sad to say but the perception of these events is different. For Belgium, it is rightly treated as a horrible tragedy that requires mass support and unity, but for Bassam it is something different. Yet, for the people here, it was devastating too.
There is hope: amazingly, as I write this I hear beautiful singing from the street. A church group is walking through the French Quarter singing prayers. The people here are coming together as they always do.
I am with Brussels and I am with Bassam. Tous le monde doit être ensemble.
John Doces. Je vous écris de la Côte-d'Ivoire en Afrique.