The African Security Joke


There is much discussion over security around Mali after twenty or more of 170 hostages were killed Friday.  A most devastating affair.

I get it, something like this happens, we tighten up security for a few months, and then our security begins the slow decent back into a more lackadaisical default position.

It is exhausting trying to get people to take a job seriously when they currently don’t, so we give up trying. You would have a long exhausting history of hiring and firing if you insisted.

Guns change everything. How else can you explain how two gunmen did what they did in Bamako on Friday, November 20th? Reports reached as high as ten gunmen, but in the end, two, two frigging gunmen.

When we lived in Ivory Coast in the mid to late 1990’s, we had a night guard (Who happened to be a Malian Bella from near Timbuktu). We all had guards. A guard in theory should be awake to check things over, to look, and listen. But most sleep at times … even the soldier guarding the Bank’s back door just below me as I write this story.

We woke early one morning, packed the kids into the truck for an early get away to Abidjan. The guard was out cold right beside the truck. We opened and closed house doors, the truck doors, packed our bags in the back, and still no movement from the guard.

My wife asked me to wake him up to open the gate.

“No, let him be embarrassed when I start the truck and begin to leave, that might give him a needed lesson.”, I said. But it didn’t.

I opened the gate, started the diesel truck, and backed out with still no movement from the guard.

Lynn asked me if he was dead. I doubted it I said as I could hear him snoring.

Once on the street I climbed out of the truck, shut the gate over, but did not latch it.

I am happy to say I did not disturb my guards sleep in the least. I would have felt so horrible if I had. We left, and did not return for two days.

Imagine the situation. The guard wakes up with the truck he was sleeping beside missing. He has no idea when we left, who left for certain, and the gate not latched, only closed over. Just enough ambiguity to cause him consternation.

The guard was pretty sheepish when we got home two days later. But he still slept every night. We all wonder what we pay them for at times.

The best story ever was from a lady in Bamako this week upon us driving by her sleeping guard.

When she lived with her parents their guard would put a machete under his mat by the gate so he could haul it out to defend himself if need be I suppose.

Her dad was awake in the middle of the night one time and upon seeing the sleeping guard, he walked out and took the Machete from under his mat and body without waking him.

Her dad never once mentioned the incident, and never gave the machete back. To this day the guard has no idea who took a machete out from under him.  Probably very disconcerting. What is more disconcerting to me is that the guard never bothers to mention this strange security breach to his boss.

Security in Africa is a joke, and illusion. If someone wants you, they will get you. Everyone around us, the thieves included, know the truth about the situation. So i am not letting any security secret out of the bag. Everyone knows.

Guards only deter petty opportunistic theft. They don’t do a dam thing to help you when people with guns arrive. I don’t care how “Embedded” in the community you are (the bragging point of Peace Corp Workers, as if no one else is “embedded”), guns change everything in Africa.

Sleep on guys, we hope your health is the better for it. At least you will be fresh as a daisy when you get home in the morning.

In these nations, a few thousand radicals with guns paralyse a nation of sixteen million, or a city if two million, because the guards are all asleep, and a few people have guns and are ready to use them.

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