Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.

Everyone will be welcome in Mali once the problem of terrorism is over

foto: Jantine Albers

Bouba speaks seven languages. The official language in his native country of Mali is French, but he also speaks four of the thirteen local languages spoken there. English and, more recently, Dutch complete his repertoire.

In Mali, Bouba was a qualified accountant, but finding work in a country that was plagued by corruption proved impossible. So he started working as a travel guide, a job he’d done as a student. “The training to become an official guide took six months. It involved theatre, drawing, speaking to locals, and of course history, geography and languages”, explains Bouba.

He spent a year working solo as a guide before being approached by a Dutch travel agency, where worked for another couple of years. Bouba then worked for Maria, the Dutch owner of Tara Africa Tours. They ran the company together for ten years until the troubles broke out in the north of Mali in 2012 and increasingly fewer tourists were tempted to visit the country. “The ethnic groups living in the north have a lot of power: diamonds, oil and silver are plentiful in the area. They use the revenue they generate to buy weapons and rebel against the government. The army is powerless. Nobody is prepared to fight the corruption. Some people are even willing to put their own lives on the line and flee, simply because they cannot build a life there”, says Bouba.

Bouba arrived in the Netherlands thanks to his girlfriend. “She was on holiday in Mali in 2009 and we fell in love. We stayed in touch and when the trouble started in 2012, she suggested that I move to the Netherlands”, explains Bouba. “I spent the first two months following a full-time Dutch course and on my return to Mali, I took the first part of my civic integration test. I was granted a 12-month visa and attended lessons in the Netherlands for six months to make sure I’d pass the second part of the civic integration test.” Bouba now has a Dutch passport.

Over the last six years, Bouba has travelled the world, visiting 28 different countries. “My girlfriend and I love travelling, so we’ve been to almost every country in Europe. The Netherlands is one of the neatest countries I’ve ever been to. If something’s broken, it gets fixed. The municipalities do what they’re supposed to, so you don’t mind paying taxes. It’s very different in Mali. Some places are so dirty. The municipalities shirk their responsibilities and fill their own pockets instead.” But that’s not the only difference: people live outside in Mali. They listen to music, play games, enjoy each other’s company. You don’t have to ring before you visit, like you do here. “The Dutch seem a bit shy of other people. They stay indoors in bad weather.” And in Mali, it’s traditional to care for your parents as they grow older. Bouba: “I ring my family nearly every day. My parents are 72 and 63 and still work hard, farming the land. In the rainy period, I go back to Mali for a few months to help them. I also send them money every month, that’s what we do in our culture.”

Bouba likes the Dutch and is happy in Utrecht, but he would like to return to Mali one day. He says everyone will be welcome in Mali once the problem of terrorism is over. “Mali is fabulous country, it’s just such a pity that it’s not safe for tourists and that it’s so corrupt.”

Name: Bouba Guindo
Place of birth: Mopti, Mali
Date of birth: 15 February 1979
Motto: ‘Live and let live – you’re responsible for anyone else’s life’

Allemaal Utrechters is a series of interviews with people who moved to Utrecht from another country. We ask them about their background and their impression of Utrecht, revealing the true diversity of our city. The ‘Allemaal Utrechters’ series is a collaboration between DUIC and Culturele Zondagen, and has been made possible with help from Stichting Dialoog and the Municipality of Utrecht. We hope to showcase every nationality in Utrecht.

Click here to view the other articles.