Fatima is used to life in
Mongo. At first glance one sees a fragile and beggarly old woman
with white hair and arched shoulders. She bears a wooden yoke
with a variety of containers and boxes suspended on each side.
She goes from place to place, asking for old jam jars, bottles, tissue
ends or other things she may be able to sell. She also asks for
food to eat from time to time and we always offer her water.
After a second look, we see a charming woman
with pride, dignity and a honest knowledge of the people around
her. She came one morning to our home and shared the story of
her life. Then she stayed with us for lunch and a siesta under
I was born in Gadjira and I
lived there until I was married. I came to Mongo once my husband
brought me here after we were married. My father came from far
away. He was Walasso of Mali. I do not know what his
tribal language is. He was a translator. He translated
from French to Arabic and Arabic to French.
I brought three daughters into the
world. Then my husband travelled to Moïsala where he finished
his days. I remarried and I gave birth to a boy. Then my
second husband died.
I married again. This time, my husband
did not die, but we got divorced. I had a child from this
marriage. But with time, two of my daughters and one of my sons
My oldest daughter grew up and got
married. She went to be with her husband in N'Djaména.
Her brother came to visit her and she became deathly sick. She
was hospitalised, then she also died. Her brother buried her,
and came to tell me the news. He asked me questions like these:
"Should I stay with you, or should I return to find the children
of my sister since they are still small?" I replied,
"Go, be with the children." After falling ill, he died
after spending a long period of time with the children of my oldest
I had five children but now I do not have
any, unless you speak of the four children of my daughter, who had
three sons and one daughter. The boys are in school. The
daughter wanted to come here but she gave birth to twins, and it would
be hard to travel with such very small children.
My first husband was a Marabout (Muslim
Religious teacher). I still have his Koranic books, even
today. I am also a Muslim. My mother tongue is
Dadjo. I also speak Arabic.
I am no longer able to see clearly. I
have aches all over my body and I suffer with toothaches. I am
totally exhausted. I am eighty years old, and live in the
compound of my former husband.
During the famine I was already a woman with
the responsibility for children. The famine lasted seven years
and was due to an invasion of locusts.
Mongo belonged to the Dadjo alone in those
days. The border with the Bidiyo and the Djonkor was way out in
the wilderness. At one time there were idols among the Dadjo but
with the arrival of Islam, the idols were abandoned.
At that time, Sector 3 was in the
wilderness. The Arabs lived in Gadjira. The leader of the
Arabs gave up his post and they elected a new chief. After the
elections they set up homes in what is known today as the Arab
The whites first settled in Barwala.
Then they spent two years in Bolong. Then they spent six months
in Balgaga on the other side of Mongo mountain. There was not
enough water in Balgaga. My father encouraged them to come to
Mongo. They set up large homes to live in here which are still
In those days, the market was where the
restaurants are now. They built a large shady area using straw
mats, to block out the sun. Each ethnic group had their place
for selling things. It was not like today where everyone is
The famine brought the Ouaddaï people (from
the east of Chad). They lived in the places nearest to the
mountain. In those days, when people would prepare bili-bili
(traditional millet beer), they would throw the waste on the edge of
the mountain. The Ouaddaï would gather this waste and eat
it. Today they are the great leaders, but they suffered a lot in
Many of the Ouaddaï who lived in Sono are
dead, because they had a large, deep well into which they were thrown
by the Kenga, to the point where the well was filled with
bodies. My father saw their suffering, and encouraged them to
come to Mongo.
The Dadjo had nothing, no cattle, no goats,
not even enough grain (millet). There were a lot of soap
makers. Now, there are not many of them. The people were
in the habit of gathering arabica gum and selling it to buy themselves
millet. And the women carried firewood. In our days
firewood is transported by trucks, cattle and donkeys. A woman
who transports firewood is obliged to sell it at a low price. It
is very difficult for the poor to live because of the desert's
There was a man whose name was
Baradine. He was a powerful merchant. He bought lots of
millet. Then he went to see the Marabout to ask him to prevent
the rain from falling. He brought the Marabout one of each of
the grains: millet, groundnuts, sesame seeds, etc. He also
killed a black dog. And the Marabout prayed for it to not rain
the following year. Thus, there was famine. Baradine used
a small tea glass to sell the millet he had stocked up, and earned a
huge profit. He had buried the dog a long time ago and no one
discovered the secret. But the Canton Administrator said,
"A curse on whoever wishes to harm others."
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