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NATION NEWS (Barbados' Leading Newspaper)
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A face to a deadly voyage
Date May 26, 2006
Brief A face to a

deadly voyage

by Tim Slinger

"I would like to send to my family in Bassada a sum of money. Please excuse me and goodbye. This is the end of my life in this big Moroccan sea."

This sad note scribbled on a piece of paper was among the few item

by TIM SLINGER

"I WOULD LIKE to send to my family in Bassada a sum of money. Please excuse me and goodbye. This is the end of my life in this big Moroccan sea."

This sad note scribbled on a piece of paper was among the few items local police investigators found on board the ill-fated boat discovered off the St Philip coast April 29.

Tucked between 11 badly decomposed bodies, the message, written in Senagalese, told the tale of surrender - parting words from one of an estimated 52 West Africans who, in their bid for a better life, perished or succumbed to the bowels of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Ever since this grim discovery, police have been trying to piece together the puzzle which has shocked Barbadians.

A joint police and Coast Guard team retrieved the unnamed boat with 11 bodies off Ragged Point after a fisherman reported the discovery.

A preliminary post mortem report indicated the men died of starvation and dehydration.

Meteorological officials have reportedly confirmed that sea currents around this time of the year could have been responsible for any drifting boat off the West African coastline to find its way into Barbados' waters.

However, more importantly, has been the question of identification which investigators have been grappling with without any real success.

One senior investigator reckoned there's slim hope the 11 bodies being kept at a funeral will ever be conclusively identified because of the advanced stage of decomposition.

Meanwhile, WEEKEND NATION investigations have indicated that not only were the majority of those who left the Cape Verde Islands last Christmas Eve were from Senegal but the 1 960 miles planned trip to Spain in the small boat had left several families disillusioned and hoping for closure with their missing loved ones.

Ibrahima Dieme sent local authorities a picture of his 29-year-old brother, Diao Souncar Dieme who, like the others, paid a "bandit" 1 300 euros (BDS$3 306) for the dream trip to Europe.

Dieme said his brother had migrated to the Cape Verde Islands just two months before he embarked on the ill-fated boat ride.

Unfortunately, he may never know if his brother was among the 11 bodies which drifted 2 825 miles to Barbados.

According to senior police sources, the forensics involved in such a process could take several weeks or months and would also require data that may not be readily available.

"Our family would like to have the body for burial, but we don't know," Dieme told the WEEKEND NATION, recently.

It is believed most of those wishing for a better future were in their 20s and at least two of the deceased were close friends of Omar Badje, who also hails from Senegal.

Badje, in a telephone link-up, spoke about his disappointment about their fate and even provided a list of names of those packed on the small, crampy 20-foot boat, including two from Gambia and Guinea Bissau, two countries next door to Senegal.

The missing and presumed dead list is as follows: Seiny Dabo (Guinea Bissau), Bouba Cisse (Gambia), Wakha Kaba (Senegal), Moro Faty (Senegal) and ....... Dimbadiou (Senegal).

Cisse's first cousin, Abdou Karime Cisse, who lives in Portugal, shared some of his knowledge about the proposed Christmas Eve trip, noting that his relative had spoken to him on the telephone requesting financial help.

"I told him I could not send it (money) for him at that time," he said to the WEEKEND NATION as he reflected on his cousin's enthusiasm to make the "pirate" trip to Spain.

He also spoke of knowing Dabo and reckoned that his (Dabo's) wife, who was living in Gambia, might not have known about his fate.

"I am going to have to get in contact with her and tell her what happened," he said.

While local authorities might be left with no other alternative than to give the West African citizens a Barbadian burial, Senegalese officials have expressed an interest in the decision of last rites.

"We would like to have more information because we are interested to find out if the bodies belong to our country," Moukhtar Kouyate, Acting Consul-General of Senegal in New York said as he speculated about the possibility of having the deceased flown to his country for burial.

timslinger@nationnews.com



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