A Malian immigrant has been granted an official audience by the French President, Emmanuel Macron at the Champs D’Elysée. It was a historic meeting last Monday between Mamoudou Gassama and Emmanuel Macron who promised the 22 year old Malian French citizenship and a place in the prestigious national Fire Fighting Corps.
The meeting came following a rare act of bravery performed by Mr. Gassama who has been nicknamed the “spider man” because he climbed up a gigantic building with his bare hands to safe a child who was hanging helplessly at the balcony of the building as a crowd of onlookers watched helplessly.
The French President praised Mr. Gassama for his act of bravery while the Mayor of Paris personally called the Malian immigrant to congratulate him. After the incident, his countrymen have also showered praises on Gassama and gradually his 72 year old father in the suburbs of Mali is gradually become a hero. Meanwhile, the Malian President has invited him to come home and join the national army.
Mamoudou Gassama’s story is not an isolated case but it is the story of tens of thousands of Africans who risk their lives every year to make the perilous illegal journey to Europe, where they think they can be recognized and celebrated. In most of sub-Saharan Africa, much of the wealth is in the hands of a very few and accession to such a closed circuited class is restricted and passed from generation to generation. In such a case it becomes impossible for people from impoverish families like the Gassamas to ever be noticed and celebrated in their own country. In this frustration, they would always want to go abroad where they can be given the opportunity to exercise their talents and be celebrated.
Mali as well as most African countries lacks institutions which celebrates talents, institutions which gives equal opportunities to everybody to excel. In the heart of corruption which has hijacked most of these countries, the few institutions are reserved for the offspring of the most powerful , while those from peasantry families have to find their stars elsewhere. This has ensured that a good number of African talents are found in Europe and America where they have naturalized and are a source of national pride to these countries. During the Olympic Games of 2004 and 2008, Cameroonian athlete, Francoise Mbango won gold medals in triple jump but because of poor treatment at home she switched nationality and started competing for France by 2010. The national football team of France is a congregation of nationalities as a good number of its players at any given time originates from Africa. Also, some of the finest African intellectuals are teaching in universities abroad where they are welcomed and celebrated.
Mamoudou Gassama is a very good example of a hero who was only noticed and celebrated abroad. Being the 6th out of a very impoverished family of 9, things became worst when he lost his mother at a very tender age. Because of the hardship, Gassama dropped out of school and lose all hopes of ever making life. This explains why he took the extreme route by taking the perilous journey through road and sea to arrive France in 2017. Like many other illegal immigrants, he had been living without papers and never knew that one day he would become a hero.