After a temporary bridge over the Bagou River was washed away by heavy rains three weeks ago, the road between Mali and Labé, towns in northern Guinea, has become hell for travellers. To cross the river, travellers are forced to wait hours and pay high fees to porters. Very often, their vehicles are damaged during the crossing.

The Bagou River, which is in the Yambering district in Guinea, lies between the town of Mali, to the north, and Labé, to the south.

"The porters and guides who get people across the river are the masters of the place”

Alpha Ousmane Aob Bah, a Labé-based journalist who works for Africaguinee.com, went to the crossing on July 28. He filmed all the videos in this article.

There used to be an old, worn out bridge, which was built during the colonial era. Last year, the authorities knocked it down to build a new one. A few meters from the original bridge, they built a temporary bridge out of rocks and gravel so that people could still cross while the new bridge was being built. But when the rainy season started in late May or early June, they stopped construction.

About three weeks ago, heavy rains washed away the temporary bridge. At that point, getting across the river became a nightmare.

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"I saw people arrive at 6am who were still waiting at 1pm”

First of all, you have to wait hours to cross. I saw people arrive at 6 am, who were still there at 1pm. There are quite a lot of people who travel from Mali to Labé for medical care so this extended wait is particularly hard on them. Unfortunately, there is no alternative route.

It’s incredibly hard for the people travelling on foot to cross. Some people link arms so as to not be swept away by the current. Others pay 15,000 Guinean francs [equivalent to about 1.50 euros] to a guide to help them get across.

Some people struggle to cross the river like the man shown at 0’20 in this video. (Bah from Africaguinee.com sent us this photo)

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If you are trying to get a vehicle across the river, you basically have to pay-- it’s almost impossible to get a car or a motorcycle across without help.

For a motorcycle, you have to pay 50,000 francs [about 5 euros] to a group of porters, who will carry it across. A car or truck costs 200,000 francs [around 20 euros] and the porters get it across using chains. The porters and guides who get people across the river are the masters of the place.


People pull a car across the river. (Bah from Africaguinee.com filmed this video and shared it with the France 24 Observers).

 

This video shows a mini bus driver who manages to cross the river unaided (0’36) and a car that gets trapped in the water (0’55). (Bah from Africaguinee.com filmed this video and shared it with the France 24 Observers).

This video shows a group of men carrying a motorcycle across the river. A mini bus also tries to cross, in vain. (Bah from Africaguinee.com filmed this video and shared it with the France 24 Observers).

"A few vehicles were almost swept away”

If a vehicle gets stuck in the middle of the river, everyone pitches in because if it stays there, then no one else can pass. I saw a few vehicles almost get swept away by the courant. A few cars also broke down because water got into their engines.

When I went to the river, it hadn’t rained for two days so that makes it possible to cross. When it rains, it is impossible. This a huge problem because this road is so important. For example, most of the food in Mali is brought in from Labé.

Lastly, there are no toilets at the crossing and no clean drinking water. Some people get water from a small spring, but the water isn’t clean. I think there are massive health risks.

On July 25, the Minister of Public Works released a statement saying that construction on the new bridge would be started up again in the coming days. He didn’t specify how long it would take to finish the construction.

Bah is also worried about other bridges along the route between Mali and Labé, which he says are also worn out and could “collapse at any moment” (see the video, below).



Alpha Ousmane Aob Bah from Africaguinee.com sent this video to the France 24 Observers.

Alpha Ousmane Aob Bah from Africaguinee.com sent this video to the France 24 Observers.

Alpha Ousmane Aob Bah from Africaguinee.com sent this video to the France 24 Observers.

Article by Chloé Lauvergnier (@clauvergnier).