By Susan Craig
We postponed our return to Cote d’Ivoire from Ghana because street demonstrations were scheduled by different groups in Abidjan for the second week of January. By January 7 those demonstrations were called off. I flew back to Abidjan on January 8. Except for higher-than-usual mounds of trash at various intersections, the roadway from the airport to our homes looked “normal.” I even rejoiced that our vehicle had to crawl with everyone else’s through a typical traffic jam. That’s Abidjan as I know it!
Since January 9 I resumed many of my normal activities. However, it was almost three weeks before I ventured out to see my Dioula-speaking friend, Ilsa. She lives on the other side of a “loyalist” government roadblock that didn’t exist prior to our November 28 elections. The roadblock was set up at my former bus stop, near where my Dioula-speaking friends sold fried fish, attieke (processed cassava root), fruits, peanuts and other snacks in the evenings. Now my vendor friends are gone. Their tables and benches became part of the road’s barricade. And the presence of soldiers 24/7 forced my friends to set up shop elsewhere or “throw in the towel.”
I realized that I was afraid of passing through the roadblock. Missionary friends had been previously stopped and questioned by the soldiers who guard the barricade. So what? I just felt vulnerable, like I might have to apologize for being an American if my nationality was asked. I am privileged to be an American. However, after Cote d’Ivoire’s November 2010 elections, my passport country and the current regime in power are not in agreement as to who the presidential victor really is. I renewed my annual residence card in January. When the clerk placed my fingerprint on the paper he asked me my nationality. I hesitated. Why is he asking? It’s written on the paper he’s looking at. The secretary within earshot, who knows me well, answered for me. “She’s American.” Immediately the clerk exited to a nearby office, almost slamming the door behind him. I don’t think my “thank you” for his help reached his ears. Back at the roadblock, my fear had no basis. The soldiers were busy stopping cars. They didn’t even look at me as I walked through the open barrier with two other pedestrians.