There are some things you just wish you could say at some point in life, and there isn’t much that beats ‘And now for the news from our man in Ouagadougou.’ Even when that man is not quite in Ouagadougou, but more like Djibo. Still Burkina Faso, so good enough. (OK, I wouldn’t mind mentioning Tegucigalpa, but for now we’ll stick with Africa.)
Having been put in touch with Stephen Davies who wrote the rather good Outlaw, we’re embarking on a blog tour where a blog tour really makes perfect sense. It’s very hard to tour in person from Djibo. So we’ll do the virtual stuff until such a time as Steve makes it back here. I won’t call it civilisation, as I’m having my doubts about the truth of that now.
We had half planned for him to contribute to Bookwitch earlier this week, but Steve was unexpectedly somewhat stuck in Niger. As you tend to be, sometimes. But now, without more ado; ‘Here is the news from Ouagadougou, and more!’
“Last month my adopted home Burkina Faso went mad. Students protested on the streets of the capital (the deliciously named Ouagadougou), gangs of phonecard-salesmen smashed up traffic lights and petrol stations, and before we knew it the presidential guard had mutinied and the army was roaming around shooting and looting.
Even in my home town Djibo in the north (described in the Brandt travel guide as a ‘sleepy desert outpost’) schoolboys were on the streets yelling ‘Justice! Justice!’ and throwing stones at the police headquarters. I asked Oumaru, my next door neighbour’s fourteen year-old son, what justice they wanted, and he told me about a schoolboy from a faraway town, Justin Zongo, who had died of head injuries after being beaten up by a policeman. Zongo lit the blue touchpaper, but it could equally have been any of a million other big or small injustices committed over the last twenty-four years by policemen, soldiers, mayors, councillors, and corrupt mid-ranking officials.
Must be something in the water. Whilst Oumaru and his schoolmates were protesting, my new book ‘Outlaw’ was being printed, and that also contains – no, is – a cry for justice. The main character – the Chameleon – is an outlaw who lives in the desert near Djibo. Surrounded by his loyal gang, he cheerfully goes about righting wrongs, outing villains, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. How I wish he would come to life!”
Well, who doesn’t? The Chameleon is a worthy modern successor to the Scarlet Pimpernel and others.
I might have forgotten to mention this, but I do think you should read Outlaw. If only for Justin Zongo.