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The Boy, the Ambassador and the Deadly Encounter on the Road

‘Returning to the X’

In the minutes, and then hours, after the accident, the villagers streamed to their town’s gathering point: the road.

They wore every color under the sun, many of them hand-me-downs with logos of American and European sports teams. There was a boy in a red Chicago Bulls T-shirt, near a young man in a yellow soccer jersey with Samsung across the front, denoting Chelsea Football Club.

Among them was Aboubakar Oumarou. For reasons Abou never understood, Toussaint had attached himself to him. Abou came to view himself as a big brother to the boy, who was often underfoot begging for piggyback rides to the market.

That morning, Abou had been in math class when the accident happened. With the other students, he ran out to the road. And there he stayed, walking back and forth, anger mounting. He could see the spot, marked with blood, where his little friend had died.

Toussaint was different from most of the children who played along the road in Mokong. His father, Emmanuel Dague, later described him as “exceptional,” saying that his son was thoughtful and avoided trouble.

He spent hours hunting for insects and small rodents, sticking them with pins, saying that they were sick and that he was making them better. Toussaint (so named because he was born to his Catholic family on All Saints’ Day) had recently told his father that he wanted to be a veterinarian. He explained that he had to dissect the creatures to learn what was inside them. After Mr. Dague objected, Toussaint often hid behind his grandmother’s house to work on his captives.

He had four siblings — two brothers and two sisters, ranging in age from 11 to not yet 1 — and when he wasn’t administering his veterinary services, Toussaint was playing with his 9-year-old brother, Aristede.

Or pestering Abou.

Abou went to Toussaint’s house after the accident, but the boy’s mother, Fanta Makachi, was sobbing. Mrs. Yassedi had fetched her from the river, where she had been washing clothes. Toussaint’s father was at a clothing factory in another town; he did not know what had happened because he could not use his cellphone at work.

Now, five hours later, the police and security officials were yelling at the villagers to stand back. The important American dignitary would be returning.

Traveling toward the front of her motorcade that morning and having email problems with her BlackBerry, Ms. Power knew nothing of the accident until arriving in Mokolo, near the United Nations refugee camp, her aides said.

First, she met briefly with provincial leaders. It had started to drizzle, and outside the town hall, dancing women, drummers in traditional garb and locals were waiting to welcome her.

Then Mr. Thomas-Jensen, Gideon Maltz, Ms. Power’s deputy chief of staff, and Kurtis Cooper, her spokesman, pulled Ms. Power aside. Then they told her that the car Mr. Thomas-Jensen was in had struck, and probably killed, a child.

“Oh my God,” said Ms. Power, the mother of a 7-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl, Mr. Cooper recounted. “We have to go back.”

Source: NYT > World

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