Dear Minister Sinatambou,

Avec le soutien de

Oh how you missed the point, Minister, when you said that you didn’t know that there was so much bitterness in Cité Barkly. That was not bitterness, Minister. It was frustration, anger, helplessness and despondency, fused with disgust and dejectedness. If you did not know, Minister, those are the feelings of a large swathe of the population, getting larger and larger, particularly when you and some of your unconscious colleagues open your mouths, tell us half-truths and insult our intelligence.

You took the people of Barkly and La Butte for granted, Minister. If you thought they were poor and therefore illiterate, inarticulate and unable to match the great skills you use in your weekly propaganda, you must have been surprised to meet a crowd of educated, civilised citizens able to articulate their rights, concerns, distress and, yes, anger.

There is never a suitable time, Minister, to throw people out of their homes, destroy their property and everything they spent a lifetime building. There is never an appropriate time, Minister, for the rest of the population to helplessly watch their compatriots being evicted from their homes whatever the circumstances are. For there never is a right time for human tragedy to be acceptable. But we all agree that a certain degree of suffering is inevitable when the interest of the nation at large is involved. So no one is opposed to the principle of relocating people to make room for your project and we condemn in the strongest terms some of the haggling going on to extort money – OUR money – from the state.

However, there was no obligation on your government to compound this distress and tragedy by choosing to inflict it on its own people in the most atrocious circumstances, at the worst time and in utmost haste. There was no need for your people to use such disproportionate force to get hapless citizens out of their warm homes and leave them out in the cold. And there was no need for us to watch our compatriots being dragged along the road by cops too eager to please.

There is a minimum decency required from any government – even if it is headed by an illegitimate prime minister. That decency, Minister, involves first respecting our dignity and then our intelligence as a nation.

Also, forgive me, Minister, for having to mention a word your government has not been able to look up in the dictionary yet – competence. You define it differently from us. For you and the people you speak for, competence is synonymous with everyone close to yourselves – sons, daughters, nieces, aunts, mistresses, boyfriends and everyone else we have watched your government propel into positions of power. For us, ignorant people, competence starts with having a vision and the ability to plan. Before signing an Rs18.8 billion contract – at a suspiciously dazzling speed – we would have expected you and your government to have worked out how many houses the project was going to destroy on its way and where the people whose houses you were going to reduce to dust were going to live once you have made them homeless. Instead, you first signed the contract and agreed to a huge penalty in case you didn’t deliver the site on time – something you only revealed to us when you were forced to – and, in a knee-jerk reaction, you sent your bulldozers – on the eve of Eid – to destroy everything upon sight!

Then you compounded that incompetence with disconcerting heartlessness: You declared that you didn’t know that children would be traumatised when their homes were destroyed! Really? And you dare ask the Barkly inhabitants to be grateful for having deigned visit them to tell them that you can’t tell them anything?

The fortunate thing, Minister, is that people who have lost houses will build new houses again while keeping their heads high. What you and your colleagues have lost, you can never build again. You found out the result of that in Barkly this week when you leapt unrestrainedly into a moving car that nearly left you behind.

While all this was going on, your leader has crawled from his cocoon and is repeating to whoever is interested to hear that the population will judge him on his performance. Hasn't anyone told him? We already have. And not only in La Butte and Barkly!

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