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new internationalist
issue 255 - May 1994



The ‘bumsters’ of Banjul
Women tourists buy sex

Baje in the family compound: at 30 he's already too old and con't compete.

Baje Kebbah can’t attract women as often as he used to. His clothes are dirty and his dreadlocks are dusty and bedraggled. At 30 he can no longer compete with the groomed and fit young men who hang around the bars and beaches picking up middle-aged European women.

Baje is a ‘bumster’, a term for the young men living in and around the holiday resorts on the Banjul peninsula in the Gambia, earning their living selling sex to women tourists. In the towns of Bakau and Serrakunda it’s common to see middle-aged women, some of more than a certain age, strolling hand-in-hand with beautiful young men.   

Baje was 13 and working on a ferry boat when he was seduced by a 45-year-old woman. ‘I was grilling some fish on the beach and she started talking,’ he says. ‘We played all night long. She had a good body and gave me money. I’ve fucked all sorts since then, all nationalities.’ He lives in his family compound with three generations of women (including his 90-year-old grandmother), who all rely on the income he and his brothers bring home.

The luxury of the tourist hotels that fringe the beaches is in stark contrast with the poverty in neighbouring towns such as Bakau and Serrakunda. With 46 per cent of the population aged under 15, and 40 per cent out of work, future employment prospects for young people are grim. The Government has encouraged tourism and last year over 143,000 tourists visited the country, mostly from Britain and Scandinavia.

For young men like Simon, 21, and his brother John, 23, there are few job prospects. Living off the tourists as guides or gigolos is one of the few options open to them. John used to play truant to go to the beach. ‘Our mother couldn’t give us lunch money and there were a lot of us so I went to the beach to meet tourists and find money there,’ he says. ‘I was so hungry I started following white people. We had to find money for our mother. My father is old now, he’s a farmer and can’t work any more, so I have to give him money too. But sometimes when I don’t have a woman I can’t give him anything. That makes me feel bad.’

The brothers complain that the Government is threatening their livelihoods. Prompted by the numbers of schoolchildren missing lessons to find tourists, and increasing complaints from tourists of being pestered by bumsters, the Government has introduced measures to discourage them. A special police force began to patrol the beaches last year and the headmen of local villages are regularly asked to take punitive action against village boys going to the beaches. The hotels while banning the bumsters have agreed to employ some of them as in-house guides, while a special radio programme is broadcast every Saturday to encourage bumsters to look for work elsewhere. The moves so far have produced little success – the bumsters know they can earn more than ten times the average daily wage.

Most bumsters like Simon and John bribe the tourist police to get onto the beach. Their charm and friendliness soon win the sunbathers over. Simon and John have slept with as many as five women in a month, but prefer to stay with one woman for the duration of her holiday. Gifts are plentiful and women will often send money regularly to boys after returning home. In two years Simon has received eight Walkmans from different women. Like most bumsters he sells them during the rainy season when tourists are scarce.

Christine Aziz

On 12 September 1984 Manuel Salazar was involved in a struggle with a police officer in Jolin, Illinois. Salazar was severely beaten. The police officer was killed by his own gun. Salazar escaped to his family home in Mexico. In May 1985 he was kidnapped and taken back to the US. According to the Mexican Nuevo Leon State Office on Human Rights the US police paid $5,000 for the operation. Salazar was tried by an all-white jury, found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. At the latest hearing on 12 January 1994 a decision to fix the date of Salazar’s execution was postponed for six months. Execution would be by lethal injection, resulting in a slow and painful death. International expressions of concern about Salazar’s conviction and the breach of extradition laws between Mexico and the US include Pope John Paul, former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, the National Black Police Association and Milton Grimes, the Attorney for Rodney King.

Paul Donovan

For further information contact the Manuel Salazar Campaign, c/o Room 8, 219 Mare Street, London E8 3QQ. Write in protest to Governor Jim Edgar, State of Illinois, Capital Building, Springfield, IL 62706, US (Fax 312 814 5512)



Cleaned out
Turkish army destroys villages

One of the 874 Kurdish villages destroyed in 1993: 'It may seem hopeless but look what happened in Vietnam'.

The war in south-eastern Turkey which last year claimed 3,000 lives has now been going on for 10 years. Guerrillas of the PKK – Partia Karkaris Kurdistan or Kurdish Workers’ Party – are fighting for an independent state against the second-biggest army in NATO. The Turkish Human Rights Group say that 874 Kurdish villages were destroyed in 1993.

I made two visits to south-east Turkey to investigate this Turkish version of ‘ethnic cleansing’. Ormanici is typical. Before the 1960 coup it was known by its Kurdish name, Bane, but since then all place names have been changed by the Government.

I arrived on foot after a day’s walk and a raft-crossing of the River Tigris – necessary to avoid army patrols. The damp morning air still carried the smell of burnt timber and rotting meat. Turkish soldiers had tossed grenades into the communal barn killing most of the villagers’ sheep. Of the original 24 families 14 had left.

It was early evening when 18 Turkish soldiers arrived. Gunshots heralded their coming. Moving from house to house they ordered the people into the centre of the village where they were made to lie down in the mud. Four teenage men were seized and beaten on the soles of their feet by soldiers who screamed abuse and accused them of helping the PKK. Five others, including two women, were arrested and taken in the helicopters for questioning. As the soldiers left they opened fire indiscriminately on the village and killed two adults and two children.

Other villages I saw were totally deserted. Shells of homes stood amongst overgrown vegetation. The inhabitants had left in a hurry. Cooking utensils and clothes lay strewn around. The PKK say that they will defend their villages but this is a forlorn hope. Well-equipped Turkish forces can easily call in air strikes and eliminate resistance. But as one guerrilla said to me: ‘It may seem hopeless for us but look what happened in Vietnam’, where all the technology of the US military could not defeat a determined people.

Richard Wayman

Singular investments

Singular investments
After nearly three decades of war Vietnam faces a large population imbalance between men and women, especially in the 20-39 years age group. This means hundreds of thousands of women have to stay single in a society that places enormous pressure on females to get married. With no social security system to fall back on, ageing people rely on their children to care for them. In recent years women past ‘marriageable age’ in remote rural areas where husbands are even more difficult to find have broken with tradition and started having children out of wedlock. They don’t claim to like the situation they are in, but have decided to have a child to help them when they get old. Criticism from society at large seems to be easing and in some areas single mothers get the same maternity benefits as married mothers.

Far Eastern Economic Review



Czech town demolished ‘to guard against robbery’

Crumpled homes make a psychological point.

Over half the electricity in the Czech Republic is generated by coal-fired power stations. They are located in Northern Bohemia where high sulphur-content ‘brown coal’ is mined using both underground and open-cast methods. Communist policy for the industry was to ‘liquidate’ towns and villages situated above deposits – 112 settlements have already been destroyed. The Hlubina State Mining Enterprise, recently denationalized, exports half its coal to Germany. The company is keen to continue its cheap, outdated production methods – environmental controls are viewed as a hindrance to competition with the West.

Now environmentalists are fighting to save the historic town of Libkovice, which the company began to demolish two years ago. Jan Pinos of the Rainbow Movement, who was assaulted by demolition workers last September, has been trying to push the idea of using modern shoring techniques which allow undermining without subsidence and damage to buildings.

In December 1993 the Czech Public Prosecutor stepped in and halted the destruction on a legal technicality. The 11 remaining inhabitants stuck it out without water and electricity while their town was being bulldozed around them. Mr Brichacek, Mayor of Libkovice until his powers were removed, has led the opposition and faced constant intimidation. He was particularly incensed at the bulldozing of the cemetery. ‘They destroyed it and promised a memorial grave,’ he told me, ‘but the remains ended up in a landfill’. The previous week bulldozers had demolished houses in his street, smashing the water cistern and stopping just short of his property. ‘This oldest part of the town is not even due to be mined,’ he says, ‘it is just a psychological tactic’.

Mr Kicl, an ex-company man who replaced Mr Brichacek as Mayor, claimed the demolition programme was designed to ‘take down houses to guard against robbery’. Libkovice has provided a focus for the Czech environmental movement and highlighted the need to find socially acceptable solutions to an antiquated energy policy. ‘In the l950s it was a beautiful landscape here,’ says Mr Brichacek. ‘Every generation should leave something for the future, but what will we leave? Destruction, bad air and tower blocks.’

Rod Harbinson

Unpopular uprising
Popular and enigmatic Sub-comandante Marcos, a leader of the Zapatista rebels in southern Mexico, has been annoyed by the crass commercialization of his image. Manufacturers have produced dolls, T-shirts and even condoms bearing the likeness of the ski-masked guerrilla. The condoms, appropriately called ‘Uprising’ bear the slogan ‘Recommended by me’ under Marcos’s image. Marcos has said he finds them ‘disgusting’.

The Independent, 1 March 1994

Rain sings
Scientists on a US Navy sponsored research project are using underwater microphones to listen to the pitter patter of rain to measure rainfall over oceans, till now an impossible task. When rain hits the water, microscopic bubbles form below the surface and vibrate for a split second. Larger bubbles formed by the splatter of a thunderstorm ‘sing’ like a baritone while small bubbles from a drizzle are high-pitched. A computer converts these sound performances into rainfall estimates. The technique should lead to improved weather forecasts especially for marines.

Down to Earth Feature Service

An energizing thought
According to Friends of the Earth if every household in the UK fitted one energy-efficient, compact fluorescent light bulb, the energy saved would make the new Sizewell B nuclear power station unnecessary.

Resurgence, No 163

Boycott call
PepsiCo and Amoco are two US companies that continue to invest in Burma despite its openly repressive military regime and resolutions from shareholders calling for a withdrawal. A total boycott of Amoco and Pepsi would encourage these companies to think beyond profits and consider the human and democratic rights of the people of Burma.

Letters of complaint can be written to the following addresses: Amoco Corporation, 200 East Randolph Drive, PO Box 87703, Chicago, Il. 60608-0703, and PepsiCo, 700 Anderson Hill Road, Purchase, NY 10677-1444.

Burma Issues, Vol. 4 No 1

Sexual timing
Wishing to cash in on the Indian obsession with male children the Swiss company Pointer have launched a watch which they say will help owners plan the gender of their child. The watch, whose face is segmented into the phases of the menstrual cycle, has an extra hand which points out girl days, boy days, infertile days and fertile days. The watch claims to enable women to pre-select the sex of their children on the principle that boys are conceived on the day of ovulation while girls are conceived two days before. The makers guarantee 90 per cent success, while gynaecologists say this claim has not a shred of proof to support it. But Pointer are clearly hoping to convert gullibility into hard cash: the cost per watch is $333.

HAI News, No 75


‘The persistence of the style of luxury and overspending is not only a financial burden. Rather it is in the first place the wrecking of the balanced personality and implanting of the disease of arrogance and flabbiness.’

The Emir of Kuwait,
Sheikh Jabir al-Ahmad
al-Jabir as-Sabah

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New Internationalist issue 255 magazine cover This article is from the May 1994 issue of New Internationalist.
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