Pragmatic-authoritarian II: throwback to Dakar/Senegal, 2007

Yesterday, an old university friend, Saqib, asked me if I would join him and another friend for a trip to Senegal. In reply I narrated the travails of my 2007 visit there while making sure that none of the enthusiasm is dampened.

Incidentally, Senegal was put by Eqbal Ahmed under the same category as Cameroon, i.e., pragmatic-authoritarian (in his research paper that I covered in my last post). Interesting too, that the regime covered by Ahmed is that of Léopold Sédar Senghor who was a poet! So I read him and a few more Senegalese poets from a collection of African poems and came up with the following poem:

I ask of the dream     song     unfettered
promise as it rained night     rained night as
as you dared to sing     your warrior
song     wounded     worded as wound     what
then of the sword     forgot to sheathe
forgot the hearth of song? I ask
of the dream     song     unfettered night.

Here is what I messaged (verbatim):

To say that getting a visa to Senegal on a Pakistani passport is difficult is an understatement. I tried to get one in Togo in 2007. The officer at the consulate said he could stamp a visa right there, but since I was from Pakistan, it would have to go through a security check. After some time, I got the clearance, and then I used that clearance number to apply for the visa in Gambia. I got the visa. When I reached Dakar, I was not allowed entry on that visa saying it was not valid. They kept my passport and allowed me to leave the airport only because I was accompanied by two goras and after speaking with someone from the ministry. Next morning, after receiving a letter from the ministry, they gave me back my passport. When I was waiting at the airport, a guy from Bangladesh told me nobody comes to Senegal on a Pakistani passport (they either use Canadian/Australian/American etc. passports to come to Senegal). I figured either because of drugs or illegal crossing over by sea. That said, I found Dakar to be quite electric. The captivating music is a giveaway to something stirring. It has been the shadiest African city I have been to. And hence closest in comparison to Karachi. We were mugged the last night we were there, but my colleague caught the guy and took him to the police station; a lady was in charge; she prayed her isha while we waited in the room. Couldn’t catch the conversation as it was all in French… so I wouldn’t be able to come, but you guys will definitely find it very very interesting.

Saqib then asked me why wasn’t the above a blog post. So I posted this as a sequel to my last one emphasizing the continuity on West African and Eqbal Ahmed’s pragmatic-authoritarian themes. Of course, this post is memory from way back in 2007 unlike the Yaoundé one which snapshots fresh impressions from last week. Saqib is an author/filmmaker. His debut book, The Warehouse was published last year.


PS: I realize that it was in 2008 and not 2007. Instead of changing the year in the text and title, I will let it be, a reminder of how memory stands in relation to fact.

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