By: Sedia Massaquoi Bangoura
For someone like me from the tropical rain forest region of west Africa, Liberia, I had a stereotypical image of countries in the Sahel region of West Africa. I imagined these countries to be dry and arid. I could not picture any natural greenery. except for maybe an oasis here and there.
My first rude awakening was when I visited Bamako in 2002. I was expecting to see a dry almost barren landscape. To my utmost astonishment Bamako was green with trees, gardens and flowers everywhere.
My second shock came when I visited Niamey in 2009! I also had preconceived images of aridness and famine as it had been disseminated by media images of drought stricken areas. Here was another green city, with vegetable gardens along the banks of the river in the middle of the city!
Wow! Niger in my mind would be as dry and barren as I had imagined Bamako would be. Not that these countries do not have areas of deserts, but these are the pictures that we are brainwashed with and associate them with.
But what is the source of all of this greenery? Yes! You got it right! The Niger River. It flows through Bamako and it also flows through Niamey. The Niger River takes it source in Guinea, flows through 5 countries Mali, Niger Benin, and on to Nigeria. A great River of 4200 kilometers long. It is the third longest River in Africa. It takes the unusual shape of a Boomerang! Apparently this has baffled geographers. And it could baffle ECOWAS leaders if they are not careful- the Boomerang effect!
So when countries like Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana decide to intervene militarily in Niger, it is because like me, they have no idea of the power of the Niger River, and the possible boomerang effect.
Benin and Nigeria however should have warned ECOWAS heads of state and stopped them in their tracks. They know the river. They experience the river.
But somehow since the ECOWAS ultimatum I believe the leaders are now beginning to understand. Nigeria and Benin have a major role to play. Guinea and Mali already know. The people of these ECOWAS countries know. They live it every day. I hope that the leaders can wake up from their sleep in time, or else when the boomerang hits they will be sorry. He who has ears, let him hear!