A girl wears a masks in Azaguié Ahoua close to Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire on Friday. Photograph: AFP

“Good day, this message is in regards to the coronavirus. It’s a very harmful illness,” warns a voice relayed by loudspeakers round Azaguie-Ahoua, a small city in southeastern Cote d’Ivoire.

“Let’s hold our distance – one meter aside,” the voice says, talking first within the native Abe language after which in French.

The voice belongs to Gustave Aguie Ahouasso, a griot – a conventional storyteller – whose duties embrace preserving oral historical past and serving the king of Azaguie, Nanan Ako Ako Omer. 

It’s the chief himself who has ordered the anti-coronavirus messages to be broadcast over the 15 loudspeakers within the city, a group of 10,000 souls.

“The system replaces the road criers of outdated,” stated Ahouasso.

The coronavirus announcement – and the chief’s command – give the recommendation particular influence.

“The chiefs right here have discovered a good way to speak through the loudspeakers. It avoids contact [through public gatherings]… The message will get throughout. We comply with directions,” says Genevieve Akoua Kouassi, a major college trainer out procuring on the market.

Warnings

Latest royal communications have above all aimed toward making townspeople conscious of the well being messages about coronavirus, with twists to go well with rural African life. 

One warning, as an illustration, is to not eat wild animals – bushmeat – that might be a possible supply of illness.

“We take heed to the messages from the loudspeakers. At present, they repeatedly advised us that everybody have to be again of their residence after 7:00-8:00 pm,” stated Francia Nadege Apo, a hairdresser whose salon consists of two stools together with the road.

“The loudspeakers assist us, however we’re afraid,” she provides.

On Sunday, Cote d’Ivoire introduced its first loss of life of coronavirus, out of 165 detected circumstances.

A 9 pm-5 am curfew, introduced on March 23 by President Alassane Ouattara, has been enforced together with a ban on motion out and in of the financial capital Abidjan and closure of bars, faculties and eating places.

Conventional management

Cote d’Ivoire has retained a whole bunch of kings and conventional chiefs, regardless that the previous French colony grew to become a republic six a long time in the past this yr.

These native rulers function in parallel with the nation’s political authorities, in a system that predates colonial rule.

The phrase of those conventional rulers weighs closely – not solely in quite a few native selections however typically on the nationwide degree.

In 2016, a brand new structure created the Nationwide Chamber of Kings and Conventional Chiefs to present official recognition to their place in society together with a consultative position.

600 kilometers to the north of Azaguie, the pinnacle of the village of Gbini, Aly Djodjogo Traore, addressed neighborhood leaders from across the group of greater than 3,000 habitants. Gbini is a poor village close to the border with Mali. It has no electrical energy and thus no loudspeakers. Public conferences happen regardless of the danger of the virus.

Ban on gold mining

“I ask you to clean your fingers with cleaning soap or with [hydroalcoholic] sanitizer, which is a product offered in pharmacies,” stated the chief, carrying a protracted, pale inexperienced gown. 

He patiently spoke in Senoufo, the native language, then repeated his phrases in Malinke for the good thing about Malians within the village.

“Go and inform folks that they need to keep away from gatherings. We have now to shut the canteens, the bars the place there are sometimes prostitutes. Prayers in mosques and church buildings are suspended. We have to pray at residence.”

However the hardest tidings have been but to come back for individuals who make a residing from dadaba, a reputation for artisanal gold mining.

“As of as we speak, we cease dadaba work,” Traore ordered.

Younger folks erupted in protest, arguing that they may not dwell with out the cash, however the chief was agency.

“Those that don’t respect this determination should depart the village.”

‘Spit on our fingers?’ 

In Azaguie, the king additionally wrestled with rumbles of discontent.

“We work to get the phrase out to keep away from the virus coming right here. However we’d like assist. The only issues are exhausting,” he stated.

“They are saying ‘Wash your fingers.’ We have now no sanitizer, however we have now no [running] water both. How do you wash your fingers with out water? Ought to we spit on our fingers?”

A kind of serving the king, Maurice Boua Akoucha, stated meals was an enormous concern.

“Folks communicate of confinement, of staying at residence. However there are not any accompanying measures. What’s going to kill greater than the virus is starvation. If this lasts, what can we eat? We will be compelled to exit.”

“Africa shouldn’t be Europe or China, which have assets. And even there, there have been many deaths,” Akoucha warned. 

“The value right here will probably be catastrophic.”

Newspaper headline: Royal position