A new life in Niamey, Friendship in the prison

After 25 years living in the desert, following the rhythm of the nomads with their goats and camels, here I am in Niamey, at the heart of the town.

At the beginning of my stay, I was lucky to attend a diocesan meeting with our Bishop who suggested that I could visit the women’s prison.  The new manager, a Tuareg, knew us from Kerboubou and Agades and I could speak his language! I felt welcomed like a sister!

What a contrast with life in the scrub! In prison, space for each one to live and breath is lacking. In the desert, the wind and time efface all traces of the past, space is without limit! It can be compared to the freedom of a bird flying freely where it wills and a bird locked in a cage made of cement. Each step, each word and every gesture are watched and controlled.

I am not used to seeing police men. In the desert we are all responsible for each other. If there is a conflict we sort it out bringing honor to the camp.

In the prison those who can pay, live 7 to a cell. There are no windows. There are three cells like this and in one of them there is a television to break the monotony. The other 18 women stay outside on the tarmac under a little shed. Even those in the middle are wet when it rains us not speak of those on the outside edge.

It is here that I met Angelica and I was so moved as soon as we looked at each other. She is a young mother from Togo, completely alone. A friendship was born.

She was washing a mountain of dirty clothes, tired, hungry and crying. I saw her soar fingers. I took her place. The following day I went to see her with Laure, a young Togolese mum, who was moved to pity when hearing of her state and insisting on coming with me. She could even speak her language. We went out to buy something for her to eat. It was night when we came back time and the door locked. The I heard one of the wardens call out: ‘ Sister, you are one of us, no problem, open the door.’

Niamey prisonNiamey prison