The word “Project” makes people drool here. I think it is synonymous with, “Some of us are going to ‘benefit’, and benefit good from this”. And in Africa, some people get very angry when you operate a ship so efficiently and honestly that they can’t line their pockets. They begin to despise you. It happens with governments, NGO development projects, and to missionaries alike. Locals want a piece of the pie you’re dishing out.
So yes, a lot of people have love\hate relationships with us. The ones hoping for you to just start handing over things like money or supplies, some of which will simply go missing, are always bitter towards us when we do not hand money and supplies to them. They are exposed for who and what they are; selfish people are all over the earth. Those who see the greater good of what we are trying to do for the community get on board and do what they can to make it happen.
Zumayiri flat out lied for gain.
I was tracking down Samogho Bankagooma villages about the possibilities of working with them. I visited one Bankagooma village and told the elders we were going to Zumayiri right after.
The village at Zumayiri was all over us. And I soon discovered why: because they had already been the recipient of a big western development project. Save The Children had build a huge school compound consisting of 4 or 5 new buildings. A nice project, and you can’t fault anyone for building a school. I’m thankful they got a new school.
However, the village was nearly drooling when we showed up.
The chief was sick, so his son was entrusted with the task of meeting with us. We explained how we were specifically looking for the Samogo Bankagooma (Banka for short) villages to do some survey work for our project. The Chief’s son told us they were, in fact, a Banka village. I asked what the ethic mixture of the community was like, and they said there were several ethnic groups and many Senofou in the village too. I asked if they still spoke their Banka language (several other villages had lost their mother tongue and were now speaking only Bambara. Banka is a dying language)
He said most still do speak Banka. I asked if any families here had lost the Banka language and were speaking Bambara. The Chief’s son informed us that the majority speak Senofou each day, now. That sparked my interest, because I had never head of a Samogho Banka village that adopted Senofou as their language died- they always took on Bamabra. That was a red flag, I knew something was not right.
So we went home and got a call from the village the next day, saying they have a vacant hut all ready for us, and if we wanted to begin work in their village we have a place to stay and relax from our work. Oh they wanted us, and bad.
However, we had no intentions of working in the village. We struck them off the list because they had a development project already. However, there were other factors. We had a lot of red flags go up. My wife and I were both very turned off by the village.
The women were not one ounce friendly to my wife, not one lady greeted her as we walked the village (Never EVER happened before). Also, at our meeting, one guy made a real ass of himself, in a very inappropriate way. So I basically ignored him the whole time, and did not even look at him or acknowledge him in any way. When he did get in my face before we left, I made a comment that was a borderline direct insult, but he was too stupid to realize what I really said, and I knew it. The others got it; they realized I did not take too much of a liking to him.
So suffice it to say, we had no intentions of going back to Zumayiri. However, since they offered a place to stay, we needed to go out and graciously decline the offer face to face. Thanks, but no thanks.
So a few days later we scheduled a visit. However, before we arrived at Zumayiri, we stopped to greet the chief and elders at a delightful Banka village, the same Banka village we had visited before going onto Zumayiri a few days earlier.
However, in our conversation, they asked me out of curiosity, “If you are surveying Banka villages, why did you bother going to Zumayiri a few days ago?”
“It is a Samogho village is it not?” I replied
The Chief said, “No, it is not.” I said, “The chief’s son and the elders said they were.”
The Banka village elders went ballistic. The fragile old chief was more animated than I had ever seen him before. I had no idea what was going on, but I knew they were reacting to what I was saying. Finally they calmed down enough to bring me in to the language loop. They assured me it was a lie. Zumayiri is in no manner a Banka village. They are all Senofou, the chief’s whole family is Senafou. They lied to you.
The Chief and Elders were absolutely indignant that the people of Zumayiri would misrepresent themselves by lying about their ethnic background.
But hey, when the NGO’s arrive, there is a huge potential gravy train about to arrive. Jobs, salaries, supplies, and some of it might just land in your pocket.
But this village was slick, too slick and I knew it. We could see them salivating… But I can’t say as I blame them for wanting us to come. We have a great project.
I told the Banka chief that if this is the case, I don’t meet with liars, I’m going home right now, and not going to the meeting. They laughed and said I was doing the right thing. I said they could send word to the chief over there to tell him why we did not come. Oh, we will tell him they said. I went home, and never set foot in that slimy village again.
Imagine, lying about who you are. But I suppose we do that all the time, for fear people will reject us. Is it any different?
This story is a huge insight in to the world of Humanitarianism, and the view many local people have about us and how western aid works.