‘Monique, where are you? Are you at home? Are you planning to come into town?’
Willemien’s questions are following one another. Responding on me working at home, she tells me it might be wise to stay there.
‘There’s a huge angry crowd storming the police station and tear gas is being used to keep them at a distance’, she explains.
It was said that the police had caught a rebel.
Ségou not at all being in the North of Mali I was wondering what was going on. Did the police catch the rebel in town? Had the war in the North made it to Ségou? Did the MNLA (National Movement for Liberation of the Azawad) sent in a scout?
Having quite a strong sixth sense on possible dangers, I was surprised to experience being entirely at easy. Why wasn’t I feeling unsafe?
I went back to work. Briefly wondering if I should phone Ibrahim, who was traveling at the time, but realized it would be hard to reach him anyway, he being in an area with limited cell phone coverage.
Around dinner time everything had gone back to normal and no obstacles for a nice dinner in town with Willemien were seen. By then I had already heard several stories that all had some truth in it as turned out later.
An arms merchant, with apparently some helpers at a certain bus company seemed to have been traveling back and forth between Bamako and the North, delivering considerable amounts of heavy arms. It may be assumed that the rebels were (amongst) his clients.
That particular February morning he was on the bus, phoning with his client, in a language he thought no one on the bus would understand. He was slightly mistaken. Someone did and informed the driver, who drove into Ségou, straight to the police station.
The arms merchant was said to be really calm when being handed over to the police. He stated that God had chosen that day for him to be caught, after all the journeys he had already made. His time for punishment had come.
The Ségou police chef – who was mentioned with name and rang in all official communications – had the day of his career: he was delivered an arms merchant as easy as it could be. As well as 17 dismantled Kalashnikovs and a fair sum of cash.
And for once he really had to make his crew work. The rumor had spread that a rebel was caught and an angry crowd, being fed up with the rebels – because of all the bad the rebellion is doing to the country and the people – just wanted to lynch him. (Surprisingly that seems to be allowed by their religion: if someone does harm to you, you’re allowed to harm that person…) They also wanted to burn down the Ségou bus station of the company he had done his arm trafficking with.
The police prevented both from happening.
Most people regained their self-control and went home with soar red eyes, experiencing the effects of tear gas, eventually leaving it to the police to make sure justice will happen.
Hats off for the bus passenger and the driver who – in my opinion – showed that every person can make a difference! And to the police for preventing revenge being taken.