Le Grand Maseco

My esteemed journalist colleague Pauline Bax is writing a book about Africa, and in it a chapter about a colleague and a friend of hers in Guinea, Maseco Conde, who, very sadly, recently passed away.

My wife Kari and I both worked with Maseco while we were journalists in West Africa. Pauline asked why we had named our firstborn Maseco. This is what I wrote:

When Kari and I went on a reporting trip to Guinea together in 2008,
Maseco was an angel creating an aura of calm, peace, kindness, and
efficiency in the chaos of Conakry.

Some of the work Kari did just with Maseco like interviewing street
kids at night on camera and going on a boat with fishermen. She was
really touched at how he was so kind to the kids, like a caring older
brother who made them laugh, and feel secure for just a few moments
under his watch.

When we worked together, time, trivial matters and personal problems
seemed to stop. While we pursued the story, whether by foot or in his
car, he would patiently answer all our curious questions, and regale
us with many tales. His energy was infectious at every turn, his smile
always broad.

When he felt he had done enough legwork, he would drop me off to a
prepared appointment, and always be at the ready on his cell phone if
a problem arose.

I also remember in particular a lunch we had together and how he
talked about how his father was a talented musician.

He was one of the best stringers I ever worked with. I found out about
him through another colleague, James Copnall, and immediately I felt a kinship.
I liked how he was passionate about political affairs, and always away from the fray.

I also called him during the many Conakry street protests and strikes
from the Abidjan buro and then the Dakar buro for live phone
interviews. He would take every call, and was always calm, explaining
exactly what was happening as bullets or tear gas rained around him.

After we had transited back through Conakry on that trip after going
to the interior he insisted that he drive us to the airport. When we
said goodbye, we really felt we had been in the hands of an angel.

After we had both left Africa, when Kari was already pregnant, and we
found out it would be a boy, we decided to call him Ishmael, the

On our honeymoon to Nicaragua, we found out by email that Maseco had
died. At one point, I don't remember when exactly, it might have been
while walking on a volcano, but we were thinking the same thing, and
Kari didnt need to speak, but she did in a very soothing, slightly
trembling voice and said she wanted to call our baby Maseco in his
honor. Our eyes welled up and we held hands.

Many times when I say his name I think of the only other Maseco Ive
known. And Ive told him already where his name comes from, and how
proud I am, and how happy I am that people like his namesake have
graced this earth.

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