Fears rise over Ivory Coast’s ‘game of death’ phenomenon
Issued on: Modified:
In Ivory Coast’s main city Abidjan, the bôrô d’enjaillement (which roughly translates to “bag of enjoyment”) is an act that consists of mounting a moving a bus and dancing, flipping and jumping on its roof as it hurtles along its route.
Screen grab of a group of young people playing bôrô d'enjaillement atop a moving bus on March 9 in Abidjan.
In Ivory Coast’s main city Abidjan, the bôrô d’enjaillement (which roughly translates to “bag of enjoyment”) is an act that consists of mounting a moving a bus and dancing, flipping and jumping on its roof as it hurtles along its route. Despite the obvious risk of death, the trend became popular in the early 2000s before fading into the background after a
disputed presidential election in 2010 brought the country to the brink of civil war. Yet as Ivory Coast gradually returns to normal, our Observer has captured video footage showing that the bôrô d’enjaillement has been far from forgotten.
Most popular among secondary school aged children, students often gather on Friday afternoons after class to compete against rival institutions at the bôrô d'enjaillement. Also known as “the game of death” or “the game of danger”, the bôrô d’enjaillement grabbed local headlines in January, 2012 after a 15-year-old boy was killed while dancing on the roof of a bus as it moved through Abidjan’s Port- Bouët district. According to reports, the young man had decided to mount the vehicle to celebrate Ivory Coast’s victory over rival Burkina Faso during the Africa Cup of Nations football tournament earlier this year.
Our Observer filmed this video, which show a handful of youths improvise dance moves atop a moving bus, on March 9 outside of a bus depot in Abidjan. The act seen in the video is extremely dangerous and should not be mimicked.
“These are young guys who see the bôrô d’enjaillement as a challenge or act of bravery that transforms them into men”
Cheichk Tiétin (not his real name) is a journalist for the written press based in Abidjan.
In order to prove that bôrô d’enjaillement is still a phenomenon that is eating away at our society, I decided to go to the North Adjamé station in Abidjan, which services dozens and dozens of buses per day. It’s a hotspot for the ‘players of death’. I guess you could call it their hub.
I got there at around 6 pm armed with my camera phone, because the only way I was going to get footage of these guys fooling around on top of a bus was by being discreet. If they had seen a real camera, they would have realised that someone was on to what they were doing and the risks it included, and probably wouldn’t have behaved as usual. I had to wait about an hour, but as night began to fall I was able to film a handful of ‘bôrômen’ break out some dance moves on the roof of a bus.
The guys seen in the video had jumped on the 92 bus as it pulled by them while leaving the station. They hung off of different parts of the vehicle. Then, one of the more dexterous members of the group began to quickly climb up onto the roof. A few seconds later, he began doing acrobatics and dancing around. The others then imitated him. As soon as the bus driver realised what was going on, he braked, came a stop, and the 'bôrômen' got down.
These guys are young, and they see the bôrô d’enjaillement as a challenge or act of bravery that transforms them into men. At that age, kids sometimes feel the need to prove to their friends that they’re not afraid of anything. They compete to see who is the fastest, the most dexterous and the most daring.
The scene was broken up though after a group of men chased the kids with batons. The group included a trainee taxi driver who I interviewed at the end of the video. He was simply fed up with watching these kids play with death.
The bôrô d’enjaillement phenomenon first appeared in the early 2000s around the same time that the crisis in Ivory Coast began [in 2002 the country was plunged into a political-military and economic crisis after a group of dissident soldiers attacked Abidjan in an attempt to oust then-President Laurent Gbagbo]. It was a way for kids to amuse themselves. The trend disappeared as the conflict escalated, especially in 2010 when Abidjan became a veritable war zone and everyone was forced to observe a curfew. But since things have calmed down, the city’s youth have taken up their old habits.
Even if the police know what’s going on and are working with Sotra, the company that runs Ivory Coast’s public transport system, to try to curb this phenomenon, it’s not enough. Civilians have had to get involved, and it’s largely due to their intervention the day I filmed the 'bôrômen' dancing that there were no victims.