Reporters on the Job

Je Ne Paie Pas Le Bribe: Roadblocks and police checkpoints are nothing new in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Throughout the crisis they've existed in both the south and north. And corruption has always been rampant, says correspondent Lane Hartill. But he says that during his last reporting trip, in 2002 and 2003, when the police stopped cars, they were looking for weapons, not money.

"Today, it's an open racket and they don't even search the cars," he says. "Communal taxis are called woro woros and they are stopped the most. The driver opens his ashtray - where all taxi drivers keep their money - digs out 500 or 1,000 CFA francs (about $2), climbs out, and starts negotiating with the police or Army official. There is no set price, it's what they feel like charging the driver that day. I talked to one woro woro driver who said he loses around $300 a month to the police."

A UN official told Lane that they've tried to put a stop to it, but so far nothing has worked. The police know they can get away with it with impunity so it continues.

On Sunday a policeman stopped Lane's taxi. But rather than negotiate with the driver, he spoke directly to Lane. "I knew he wanted money so I smiled a lot, laughed, and said I didn't really speak French, that I was an American. I asked him if he happened to speak English.

"His response: 'Dollar,' motioning to my bag. In English, I replied that I was sorry, but I wouldn't give him any money, and then babbled a bit knowing good and well he wouldn't understand me. I kept smiling and laughing the whole time. He must have thought I was a bit insane because he eventually gave up and waved me on," says Lane.

David Clark Scott
World editor

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