Quite a number of times I’ve heard people say that they would take someone to the police and have him imprisoned. At first I thought it was kind of a joke, but no, they were really serious about it.
There are all kinds of ways to settle things.
First one of course is to try to solve a situation man to man, which may involve physical contact if words don’t do.
Then there’s the option of including the elders. Visit the mosque or another area where the older men are found, tell them about the situation and they will advise you and the other person involved on how to solve the situation.
Last but not least there’s the option of taking someone to the police.
Is it with us that you lay a complaint against someone, a report of the offence is being made and an investigation will be started, it’s a little bit different in Mali.
You personally take the person to the police. Once there, the story will be told and both parties involved have the chance to make their statements and bring in witnesses. Sooner or later the police officer will make up his mind and the judgment will be passed.
Guilty: You’ll go to jail. This shouldn’t been taken lightly. Punishments are high. Stealing a bit of money for instance may get you into jail for several years. Hopefully you’ll have some people around that care for you, since circumstances might not be too pleasant, you might get hungry and as someone told me, not everybody gets out alive. All of this not being a nice prospect lots of situations are settled before arriving at the police station.
Not guilty: Free to go home? Well, not entirely. Whether you like it or not a penalty is involved, to make up for all the time involved in the investigation. This may be as high as 18,000 Francs CFA, which is a lot of money for the average Malian. It’s open for negotiations since the police is aware of this too. But, facts are that you’ll still go to prison till the moment you’ve paid if you can’t come up with the money immediately.
Recently, on a Friday afternoon Amadou came running into my office, gasping for breath. One of our friends was facing a weekend in jail if he couldn’t come up with the amount of 5,000 Francs CFA. Luckily Amadou made it back to the police station before closing hour of the pay desk!
A really quiet and somewhat paler friend accompanied him home and sat in a chair in the garden, a blank stare on his face for a long time. He still had a hard time believing what had happened to him.
He was taking care of the shop he works with, when a youngster showed up, stating that he needed a place to sleep and had chosen the shop for that. Our friend was not at all pleased with the idea, thinking of it blocking the way for customers and giving a bad impression. So he told the youngster to look for another place to sleep, explaining it being a shop. The youngster, not pleased with the answer, had tried to force his way around him and our friend had pushed him back onto the street.
When the youngster was about to walk away to search for another place to put his head down, someone else had shouted at him to not take it that easy. He should take our friend to the police for pushing and harassing him.
‘Take my motor’, he had added, handing him the keys. The youngster, obviously impressed by the firm words of the other person, accepted the keys and drove our friend to the police.
Amadou had been racing around town to bring in the witnesses and the police had finally concluded that no criminal offence had been committed.
Both the youngster and the owner of the motor – having themselves accompanied by a witness as is the habit in Mali – showed up at the shop the next morning to offer their apologies to our friend. He big-heartedly accepted those, but the memory of the experience is still there and will probably last for a long time.
I’ll take you to the police, and even if you haven’t done anything wrong it’ll still cost you…