9. THE POLICE OF TIMBUKTU

Two policemen in civilian clothes erupted in my hotel one morning. It was early by Timbuktu police standards, that is to say, 9 o’clock.

One of them knocked at the door like a madman but without saying, “Police, open the door!” the way they do in films. His failure to announce himself as a police officer initially led me to think that it was a crazy person who was punching my door, so I did not hurry to get out of the shower to open. This made him even more nervous, judging by the increased rhythm of the punches on the door, but still he did not pronounce the magic words “Police, Open!” Later on, I asked them why they did not announce themselves, and they said: “If we say ‘Police,’ the people escape by the window.” Timbuktu seems to be like the Bronx! I thought that, when there is a place where everybody fears the police as in Timbuktu, either everyone is a criminal or the police are corrupt. Read more

10. THE PEOPLE OF BOKIAT

I am on probation, I cannot leave the city or the country. I cannot go back home, and I don’t know what the police are brewing behind my back. They no longer tell me anything. Patients keep waiting for me every morning on the street, but I don’t dare to cure them. Tahara cannot let anyone inside, because the health inspectors are in ambush ready to close her hotel.

I secretly continue to give some remedies to the people on the street. How can I refuse to help a mother who is pained for her child?

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I prepare them in my room. During the police inspection, they forgot to confiscate some bottles of essential oils that I immediately hid but I no longer have needles and for the majority of patients I cannot do much, especially for the elderly who are disabled by rheumatism.

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11. THE GARDEN OF THE FRENCH

The French have always been a nation of idealists, and nowadays they are working hard to repair the injustices of society. In Africa they are trying to revolutionize other’s people societies to make them as perfect as theirs.

And the French love women …
Idealists and loving women…
This is why they decided to help the women in Africa to get their rights, by giving them economic independence and freedom them from traditional male supremacy.
It is a revolutionary project, which springs from the great secular republican tradition of the French revolution, and from the great principles that have made France a beacon of civilization for the entire world.

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The problem with the French, however, is that they do not think very much before acting. They are impulsive. Whenever they act it is already too late, they are too busy for thinking. Read more

12. THE COURT OF TIMBUKTU

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The court of Timbuktu

After a week of waiting without any news, the police came without notice at 10 in the morning to take me from my hotel and I found myself in court to face charges.
At least here the justice moves fast, not like in Italy.

I waited for half an hour sitting outside the door of the attorney general when we heard loud screaming from his office. Two thugs jumped out screaming, punching, and kicking each other, while the head of the security guards tried to separate them. I immediately thought that the lawyer and an upset client were fighting, but it was not that way at all. Instead, they were two judges who were in a disagreement about an accused. The chief judge, [who was also?] the attorney general, then passed the rest of the day to pacify between them. Meanwhile, I, the poor defendant, sat outside waiting until the evening.

At the end of the day, the chief judge let me in and told me that it was late, and that I had to return Monday when he would make a decision on my fate. That same evening, however, he was on route to Bamako, summoned urgently to address the scandal about which the whole city was talking, the battle of the judges.

So, on Monday morning, his deputy received me. He listened to my explanation, and I presented him my permission to practice acupuncture. He wrote immediately on my folder with a red pen “CSS”: Classé Sans Suite, filed without result. I was then found innocent and released.

The inspector in charge of my case told me that I was very lucky not to have passed those days behind bars. It seems that the imams of the city lobbied the authorities to spare me the worst.
The imam of the Grand Mosque, a patient of mine, told police “this man works for God alone, he is a very powerful marabout, if he sends you a curse you’re all dead.”

The next day, I regained my equipment and my documents but, for almost two weeks, I was a prisoner in Mali, without a passport and unable to leave the country. It is a strange way to receive those who come to help.

I returned to the police station to present my certificate of practice acupuncture, a document that was sent to me just in time via a fax from Italy. The Chief of Police assured me, without flinching, that he had followed every part of my case, minute by minute, and had used all his influence to help me and to ensure the success of my case.

But was he not the one who brought charges against me, “sending to justice” as they say here.]

He also added that, in case of any future problems, I should not hesitate to come to him.
I’m not crazy enough to believe him.

The main problem remains: who reported me? I read the police report minutes before coming to court, though I refused to sign it. It stated: “Following the reports of a person who wishes to remain anonymous …” Who was it?

Previous episode: the Garden of the French

Next episode The manuscripts of Timbuktu

13. THE MANUSCRIPTS OF TIMBUKTU

The legendary manuscripts of the city of Timbuktu really exist.

These priceless treasures of knowledge which date from the 16th to the 18th centuries , represent the work of the era’s leading thinkers, and are classified as “patrimony of mankind” by UNESCO. They are in danger of disappearing. No one knows how many of the famous manuscripts of Timbuktu remain, though there are rumored to be several tens of thousands.

There is a lot of money circulating around them, ostensibly for their restoration and preservation—money from UNESCO and other international bodies, NGOs and governments. A lot of money spent without any concrete outcome. As always, the poor people—the guardians of this cultural birthright—do not see any benefit, and the results are only in the form of official reports.

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Despite all the money pouring in, officially with the aim of restauring the manuscripts, the effort so far has been a disaster, and the people directly concerned, the owners of these treasures, do not gain anything from this windfall. The politicians of the city grab everything. The results are comparable to the garden of the French people (see the previous blog post).

But the real pity is that the protection of these manuscripts has been an almost complete failure. They continue to deteriorate in old iron crates; and in some of the well-known local hotels, any tourist can walk away with an authentic manuscript for a paltry price.

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Manuscript proposed to me in one of these hotels Read more

14.THE HOSPITAL OF THE POOR

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The police returned the medical supplies and documents they had confiscated from me. I showed the Commissioner my diploma in acupuncture and notified him of my intention to continue to treat people who come to me for help.

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My friend Tahara lent me a tent, and a relative of hers who owns a house adjacent to the hotel courtyard (the site of the original clinic) allowed me to erect it on his property. I had the new site cleaned up and brought in truckloads of clean sand.  Read more

15. WIND TURBINE OASIS

The wind turbine that I ordered from France before leaving for Timbuktu arrived in Bamako, after a month’s delay.

I have to leave my patients and travel immediately to the capital in order to clear it from customs and organize its transportation to Timbuktu.

The turbine is 600 kg of iron and steel, with 12-meter masts and a wheel of 3 meters in diameter. I bought it from Ecolab Energies—the best model, with all the options: ladder, the work platform, the system that blocks the wheel to the ground, etc.

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Read more

16. DOCTOR BAGAYAKO

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I had used up all the acupuncture needles I had in Timbuktu. My friend Tahara’s uncle, Congressman, offered me some boxes he bought from his acupuncturist in Bamako.

I visited this acupuncturist while in Bamako to clear the wind turbine from customs. He is not Chinese! Dr. Bagayako is from Mali, but he is as fluent in Chinese as he is adept at using acupuncture needles.

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He studied Chinese medicine in China for years and is an expert who is in great demand in West Africa. Dr. Bagayako teaches acupuncture in Mali and abroad. He seems to have absorbed quite a bit of Chinese culture and philosophy.

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I spent a day with him in the clinic with his patients, and he had the kindness and generosity to teach me a bit of his knowledge.

Read more