career break africa

“We need you in Lome”

Sociologists, Psychologists and other professionals from the world at large:  Our African prisons need you.

In the Western Sub Saharan regions of Africa, over 20 million inmates are becoming martyrs for the state, or are gradually closing down further into themselves – because there is nobody who comes to listen to them, to evaluate them, to support them and to counsel them.

Amongst the prison populations, there are also thousands of prisoners from abroad.  They come from other African countries, from South America, from Asia and elsewhere…and all are living through an alarming psychological catastrophe.

Far from their families, from their friends, and abruptly de-rooted, the majority is first of all confronted by a fierce language barrier.   There are hundreds who do not speak or understand the official language, or moreover, the local dialects of the country where they are obliged to do time.  They cannot follow their case, they cannot understand the guards, the officials, the other inmates.  They turn to silence whilst searching desperately by day for those in other cells who speak their language.

In addition to this necessity of turning inwards to avoid the confusion of foreign noise and strange sounds outside, the incapacity of the administrative penitential systems means that the state cannot provide even basic shelter, food or sanitary conditions for its own people – let alone overseas prisoners.

All of this leads to real and repetitive traumas, provoked by these conditions but also adding to pre-existing traumas which may or may not have lead to initial incarceration.

There is a real reason to get involved with the prisoners in the West of Africa.  It’s to help them understand and discuss these troubles.  Traumas and a lack of guidance can gradually be resolved through consistent meetings with specialists such as psychologists, psychotherapists, psychiatrists.


This piece was written, originally in French, by a prisoner in Lome.

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