The Ringtone and the Drum: Travels in the World's Poorest Countries
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Tucked away in a remote, volatile part of West Africa, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and Burkina Faso, three of the world's poorest countries, are in the throes of great upheaval. Globalization has shown their people that a more comfortable life is possible, but as they strive to attain it, climate change, the population boom, the tyrants of the old guard and the firm grip of tradition block their way.
The clash between old and new is explosive: civil wars erupt without warning, with drugged up rebels fighting over blood diamonds, gold or a humble bowl of rice; Al Qaeda has infiltrated Burkina Faso and threatens to extend its jihad across the region; Colombian drug gangs have overrun Guinea-Bissau; and Christian and Muslim fanatics battle for African souls, preparing their converts for Armageddon.
In The Ringtone and the Drum, Mark Weston dives into this maelstrom. In an often-unsettling adventure, he travels around the three countries and immerses himself in local life. Combining the remarkable stories of those he meets with his deep knowledge of Africa's development, the book sheds new light on a neglected but increasingly important corner of the globe.
have spent the last few nights with just candle and moonlight for illumination). The sept places has only nine passengers, but there is a problem with the engine, which cuts out ten minutes into the journey. Fortunately we are at the top of a hill, and a push by two of the passengers is all that is required to restart the vehicle. Fifteen minutes later it cuts out again, and then again shortly after that (on this last occasion, one of the pushers has to run back to retrieve a pistol that has
unfavourably with Freetown’s more famous but recently demolished City Hotel, where Graham Greene set The Heart of the Matter, but it is at least clean and central. The next morning dawns cool and bright. In a few hours we will learn that the dawn is false, and that debilitating tropical heat is Freetown’s true condition (Greene described ‘an impression of heat and damp’), but for now it is pleasant to walk around and explore. The grid of streets that makes up central Freetown renders navigation
you mired in poverty. Many decide it is better to stagnate. ‘I don’t want a higher salary,’ says Mohammed the diamond miner with a resigned smile. ‘It will just be taken by my family and my girlfriend’s family.’ After weeks of deliberation, and having weighed up the arguments without reaching any firm conclusions, I settle on a muddled policy of infrequent and fairly random donations of small amounts of leones, peppered with occasional larger, unsolicited gifts to those we have grown especially
examining their case are corrupt themselves, and they won’t want to open up a can of worms. Or look at university lecturers. They write or copy pamphlets instead of teaching, and sell the pamphlets to students. If you don’t buy the pamphlet, they fail you.‘ He holds his bald head in his hands, laughing at the absurdity of it all. ‘You have to become part of it or you will not survive,’ he sighs. ‘If you don’t cheat, you will be cheated.’ Even the vaunted African family has come under strain.
Paris, there was a public outcry. The embarrassed government ordered the Minister of Colonies to conduct an inquiry. Its conclusions were published three years after Voulet’s death. They blamed his actions squarely on the soudanité. 40 We take the bus to Ouagadougou. Unlike Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso has coach companies plying the main routes between towns - there is no need here to cram into the back of a sept places or stew for hours waiting for a minibus to fill up.