Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1989

Abstract

"Will we ever move again?" I wondered as I sat with my knees jammed into my chin, sore from the long and bumpy ride on the wooden plank which lined the back of a "bush taxi" – the only public transport between villages in Northern Mali. The "taxi" was actually a rusty and roadworn pickup truck packed with more than two dozen men, women and children, more than I ever imagined could fit in the small, flat space between the cab and the tailgate. "Why are we stopping now?" I smiled at myself as I felt a sense of exasperation rising. Smiling was the sole way to make this overheated and overcrowded situation tolerable.

Our delay was caused by a police security roadblock. Judging from my previous experiences traveling through Mali, I knew that we would be detained for at least forty-five minutes, until the taxi driver finished joking with the police officers and bribed them to ignore the fact that his vehicle was overloaded. The other passengers seemed not to experience the frustration I felt, but rather accepted that our journey's speedy continuation depended on the officers' discretion and the driver's willingness to pay. While my own frustration stemmed partly from my upbringing in a North American culture that places a premium on time and efficiency, I was unsettled knowing that even if the officers could have written a citation or detained the driver for overloading his vehicle, they had no authority to demand a "fine" for their private enrichment.

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Please note that the copyright in the Human Rights Journal is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College, and that the copyright in the article is held by the author.

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