Just doing our job

Read / lees in : Nederlands

In Bissau the police lets you take selfies while driving.

Immediately after I drove into Guinee-Bissau everything changed for the better. The country was once a Portuguese colony. And given that in every country you can still sense the joie de vivre of the former coloniser you’ll understand the difference between former French Guinee-Conakry and Guinee-Bissau. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay very long because I wanted to leave this part of Africa as soon as possible. To do so I needed to get new visas now the intended route to the south had changed. It now led through Mali and Burkina Faso. Neither in Bissau nor in Banjul, the capital of the Gambia, those two countries have an embassy. The nearest place where I could score visas was Dakar in Senegal, 860 kilometers by road if you drive around the Gambia, or 580 kilometers if you go straight through. As mentioned I was in a hurry all of a sudden, so I chose the latter. A decision I would regret dearly.

Kuntaur - the Gambia
These guys caught a lot more than the narcotics boys.

Haste makes waste

It all started out splendidly. Because I gave a lift to a police officer that was hitchhiking we passed all checkpoints between Bissau and the border with Senegal quickly. The red tape there took almost no time at all, and because the roads in Senegal are very good I reached the Gambian border soon after. Here too my paperwork was done in a jiffy, but then out of nowhere an agent of the narcotics brigade showed up. If I wanted to drive my car into the courtyard for a drugs search. Well I’d rather not of course, but refusing wasn’t really an option. Just like the last time my car and everything in it was turned inside out and examined meticulously. And this time also it was apparent they wouldn’t stop until they’d find something they could use to extort me for money. You could see on their faces that they gave up begrudgingly after four (say 4) hours. Because of this setback I was forced to stay the night in Banjul. Every downside has its upside: I could because of it feast on frikandels and other Dutch snacks that night. The next morning I was waiting in line early for the ferry over the Gambia river. But of the two boats one was on the fritz, which caused quite some delay. At half past one that afternoon we finally sailed to the other side. On board I met a Ghanese soldier, he was in the country to protect the newly elected president against the security forces that had been installed by the deposed dictator Jammeh!

Kunta Kinteh - the Gambia
Right here it says how often I’ll return to the Gambia.

We’re just doing our job

After the ferry moored in Barra I raced over to the border. At about three kilometers from it there was a checkpoint…….of the fucking narcotics brigade. Apparently Bissau is an important incoming port for nose beer from South-America, so the checks are somewhat understandable. But I’d had enough of it (the drug searches that is). I explained that the day before their colleagues in the south harassed me, just like they had done the first time I was in the country and that I was sick and tired of it. They told me that they were just doing their job, and that they had to keep the Gambia safe. But when they started looking under the floor mat of my car because, according to them, sometimes they’d find ten kilos of cocaine a single cannabis seed under it, I snapped. That has nothing to do with keeping the country safe, but everything to do with looking for something however small just to extort me for money. Especially because all three times they let all poor Africans pass through unchecked. It was hard to argue with that logic, so they caved and stopped the search. When I wanted to drive off they repeated the ‘we’re just doing our job’ excuse. ‘That’s what Jammeh’s torturers used to say all the time too’, I replied. And they can start looking for another job. Because I will never set foot in this country, where everybody is trying to take advantage of you all the time, again!

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