Mo and Sognas’ goat

Mo is a friendly, kind and attentive person. Mo drops by our house every day for a little talk. He is 24 and he wants to join the army. He proudly demonstrates how well he is at sneaking, a skill that comes in handy in the Senegalese army. Mo is also a poor man. He doesn’t have a dime, fails to find a job and passes his days by chit-chatting here and there. He would love to have a fiancée. But they ask for clothes, mobile phones and he doesn’t have the money to pay for that.

He lives like a stranger amongst a large family. Many women, aunts, cousins, children and 4 goats. These belong to Sogna and stroll around on the little yard.

We are just returning from a long warm tour from Ziguinchor. We are tired and a bit grumpy because of the heat and the large number of people travelling in too small a bus. The last passenger to enter is Mo, holding a large plastic bag with smelling fish. The stench doesn’t improve our mood and maybe it is because of this that we don’t notice at first that Mo is very quiet.

Once we arrive in the village we go to Sognas’ café to have a cup of coffee. When she hears that Mo was in the small bus she immediately jumps up from her chair, grabs her phone and has a short conversation in Wolof, the local language. Then she rushes outside without even asking us to look after her business.

Sogna in front of her café

After quite some time she finally returns, with a goat that she ties up outside. Warm and with a militant attitude she plops down on one of the wobbly stools. With a fierce look in her eyes she tells us: Do you  know what happened? And then follows her report.

That morning her cousin Janté walked through the village. Outside at the butchers’ there was a goat. “Hm”, she thought,”this goat looks exactly like Sognas’. And when she approached, she discovered it was. She hurried to Sognas’ café to tell her the news. Together they head for the butchers’, going like two frigates through the main road. Upon arrival the butcher tells them he bought the goat just this morning from a young bloke for 12.000 CFA (18 euros). At that moment the butcher had only 10.000 CFA to hand so the young man would return later that day to collect the remaining 2.000 CFA.

Infuriated they tell him that this goat belongs to Sogna. That this gorgeous goat is worth at least 18.000 CFA. That he should have known that something was wrong when the young man agreed to the low price. And that this actually makes a thief of the butcher as well so they will report him to the gendarmerie (police) if he as much as sells one single hair of this goat!

The butcher, overwhelmed by so much verbal violence quickly comes up with a proposal. As soon as the young man returns for the remainder of the money, he will tell him to wait a while so he can go and get the money. Instead he will secretly call Sogna who can then come over immediately to settle the matter.

The butcher

“And who do you think I spot at the butcher? Mo!  It was Mo!! Mo has stolen the goat.” She looks enraged. “Would you have thought that of him?”

The next day we hear that Mo, before going to the butcher, first went home to give the fish to the family.

He vanished that same night. He used his sneaking talent to fetch his belongings at night, without someone noticing him. Nobody has heard from him again ever since. Why he did what he did will never be clear. And me? I was left in complete confusion. That Mo!! I was really fond of him. Had I been so mistaken about his intentions? I comfort myself with the thought that even though he was a thief, still he was friendly, kind and attentive enough to buy his family fish.

Africans ….will I ever understand them?


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