An animal often seen in Mali, is the donkey.
Many Malians have a donkey to carry loads or to pull a donkey cart. Donkey carts are being used as garbage trucks as well as for the transport of people and products. On Mondays for instance you’ll encounter crowds of donkey carts everywhere in town, when people from surrounding villages are pouring in with their products and produce to sell it on the weekly market.
And whenever you buy something you can’t carry, you find yourself someone with a donkey cart and have them take care of the transport to your house. It’s incredible how many times I’ve already made use of them!
Most donkeys do not have an easy life in Mali. A donkey with huge open wounds on its sides and back unfortunately is no exception. Also a donkey that collapses under his load is quite frequently seen. Every time I see or hear a stick landing on a donkey’s back it makes me shiver and leaves me with that unease stomach feeling.
Ségou has the doubtful honor to be well-known for the bad treatment many of the donkeys are being given. Already during my previous visits I had mentioned that I would not pay a donkey-man if he treated his donkey bad. This made my friends laugh, saying that it would be quite a challenge to find someone who treated his donkey well.
Well if I got something like that on my mind, I’ll not easily let go of it. And even though Amadou was one of the friends laughing, he had well remembered and when we were in need of a donkey cart for the first time he did turn up with a donkey without wounds.
His owner is a friendly youngster, named Abdulayeh, who has over the past few months become our regular donkey-man. He’s happy that he finds his jobs here quite regularly and at good pay and I’m happy that I do not have to contribute to behavior I dislike!
I’ll share the Ségou donkey story with you as Ibrahim shared it with me some time ago:
After a long and hard life a donkey passes away and makes his final stroll to Heaven’s door. After having knocked on it, God opens the door and with a warm smile invites the donkey to enter Heaven, saying ‘You have worked hard, you have suffered, you have served humanity, you have well earned your place in Heaven. Welcome!’
The donkey does not even move a limp, and stands there just trying to look beyond Heaven’s door to get a glimpse of life there. ‘Donkey, what are you waiting for?’, God asks him. ‘Are there any people from Ségou in Heaven?’, the donkey asks God. ‘Sure, donkey, there are many people from Ségou here’, God replies.
The donkey does not hesitate one more moment and turns around saying ‘Thank you, God, I’ll prefer to go to Hell than!’
I can’t safe all donkeys and can’t change the behavior of their owners, but at least one Ségou donkey is getting a decent treatment and his owner is finding the benefits of taking good care of his donkey!