Journal - Napló

Day 65. In the company of Africans (Libanon 2.)

Posted on June 29, 2011 at 3:35 AM

Amongst lions, in the company of Africans



   According to Agnes and Jane, the Lebanese are, from many aspects, more dangerous predators, than the lions of their home, Nigeria or Ghana.



   With our Lebanese acquaintance, Daniel and his three friends, the Ghanaian-born Agnes, Jane of Nigerian birth and her son, Kingdom, we went to see the zoo near Beirut. The tiny world of cages lies in the mountains and is home to many exotic animals or at least is a place where we, at the peak of evolution, get to admire them and see how monkeys, lions, bears and others behave under these unnatural circumstances. Although zoology and ethology are topics that can never be talked about too much, we actually spoke about life in Nigeria and Lebanon, as we were walking among the cages.


   At many Lebanese housholds we met African and Filipino helpers. Just like them, Jane and her husband came to Lebanon with a contract. Being Nigerian, this is almost the only country where they could be given a visa to enter, and, through agencies they could be placed at a family where they would cook, wash, clean – i.e. serve. They have come here on a three-year contract. They often had to work from 5 am to midnight, they were hardly given any food and, when the family went out, they were locked inside. Once the contract expires, the agency takes its share, they are paid almost nothing, only their flight back home.


   Agnes was born in Ghana but she also lived in Nigeria. Desperately, she told stories about how miserably people in Lebanon treat black people. Her husband is Lebanese, their nine children are allowed to finish school but they won’t be given any certificate. Her Islamic husband has two stores, but, as a wife, she has no say in the business, she is not allowed to work. Not like in Nigeria! There, even the women work, she could do whatever she’d like.


   They were telling us about Africa, Nigeria, longing but with sadness. Although many countries are rich in various minerals, due to the lack of proper education, technique and money they are unable to exploit it. Foreign companies are invading, the weak African governments are not capable of standing up for the rights of people, for the state so the money flows out of the country. And the people, well, they either stay silent, or they don’t even know what’s going on, like in Togo, from where phosphate goes directly to France.

   No matter how rich in oil Nigeria is, there’s no fuel, no infrastructure, no jobs, people are ill and forced to steal. The new generations get weaker and weaker, thus reducing the chance of a change.


   They have to go back to Nigeria before their passport expires as in Lebanon they can’t be given a new one. Not like back at home, where they could get a fake one at any corner, which, in exchange of a little money, would get them across the border as well. Whereas in our case,  the state, the Big Brother knows everything about everyone, the Nigerian state does not even know if a person exists, not to mention if that person is home or abroad.

   However, in many African countries we found Lebanese business people, in great houses, with much power.


   Agnes needs to stay in Lebanon because of the three children who still live with her; Jane has taken root in Tripoli: her husband and her 9-year-old son, Kingdom. Both mothers, escaping discrimination, have found refuge at Jehova’s witnesses.

translated by Ágoston Galambos



Categories: English, Lebanon, by Peter

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