Meeting Mali’s most dedicated postman
10 August 2015
- From the section Magazine
In the city of Bamako, where even the most basic public administration is beset by corruption, the arrival one morning of a letter from Manchester in the UK comes as something of a surprise.
The doorbell. Bleary eyed, I perform the required yank and heave of the cheap lock.
”La Poste – service public!” says a smartly turned-out man with extreme enthusiasm.
He is holding a white envelope, addressed to me. I feel like closing the door and reopening it again; just to make sure it’s no mirage.
”La Poste, service public!” he insists, waving the letter in my face.
I examine the back of the envelope. ”If undelivered, please return to PO Box 480… Manchester.” Since moving to Mali I have put myself online for banks, bills and birthdays. But not, I discover, for BBC payslips. Thanks to a faraway accounts department, I am meeting postman Aboubacar Doumbia.
He lives and breathes public service as someone only can in a country where there isn’t any.
Doumbia has been issued with a standard post office worker’s navy blue waistcoat. It is on the drab side. So around it, by scouring the markets of Bamako, he has created a bespoke uniform: cornflower-blue shirt, two-tone blue tie with yellow stripes and – his pride and joy – navy blue German policeman’s trousers. The final touch is his cap, which he made himself, complete with a hand-painted La Poste name plate.
Doumbia’s scooter is of course yellow. He slides on his metal-rimmed pilot’s glasses and takes me on a round.