Babani Sissko

By Joan Baxter

February 18, 2018

This has been adapted from Chapter 21 of my book, “A Serious Pair of Shoes: An African Journal,” published in 2000 in Canada. I am publishing it again now after being inspired by a fascinating BBC article about Babani Sissoko, “The playboy who got away with $242 million – using black magic,” by Brigitte Scheffer.

Crowds line the road from Bamako’s international airport to the centre of Mali’s capital.

Bamako, Mali. First came a couple of his more modest jetliners, a Fokker and a Boeing, screaming in for touchdown on the overheated runway. Then, from out of the wild blue yonder ‑ or to be precise, the brown dusty haze ‑ came that monstrous, white 747 barrelling in to land. The hot blasts of wind threatened to remove my skirt and blow it all the way to Timbuktu. I put my notebook away with a sigh, clutched at my skirt, and moseyed along after the throng already off and running towards the jumbo that had brought their prodigal son back home.

Here was Babani Sissoko, a mystery man who had reportedly left Mali penniless a decade earlier, now arriving direct from Miami with his own fleet of planes from his own personal airline, which was named after his native village. He had just been released from prison in Florida, where he’d done time, charged with attempting to bribe American customs officials to expedite the export of two military helicopters to Africa.

Ex‑con, yes, but also a hero. He’d made headlines in the US by handing out huge sums of money to charities or anyone that took his fancy ‑ school marching bands or disadvantaged children or just women he met on the street or in expensive jewellery boutiques in Miami or New York. And now he was coming home, bringing with him ‑ so it was said ‑ billions of dollars.

It was Friday morning, November 21, 1997. Word had it that there would be another jumbo landing on Sunday. That one would be bringing his luggage‑ luxury cars, construction equipment and lavish gifts that he was going to give away to his own people. Continue reading “Go ask God” – the homecoming of Mali’s man of mysteries

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