Thursday, May 28, 2015

May 27, 2015

I haven’t written a blog in a long time. So much to write. So little time. So many excuses.

But today I received a letter. And I can’t really ignore it until I tell you about it. But I don’t really even have commentary to give. Much. I’ve been here for four and a half years. And I still get surprised.

Anyway, this letter is from the court system asking for my witness in a judicial case.

I will give you my best and most honest and most literal translation of the bad French (although there are parts that are difficult to understand due to the lack of French by the author). And I will leave the commentary to you. Remember, this is a case in a legal regional court in a country in 2015. I’m doing my best to not pass judgement. Honestly, I’m not sure what I would do differently if I were the President of the Tribunal of Lai.

Note: I will translate ‘Village Chief’ for ‘Chef du Canton’. A canton is actually quite large, comprised of dozens of villages. So the Chef du Canton, although a traditional (and typically genealogically-anointed) figure, still bears massive political clout over the nominated government authorities sent to an area.

I will also translate ‘Marabout’ as ‘Witch Doctor’. A marabout is an individual with zero formal schooling who learns his craft in a secret apprenticeship. A marabout cures illness with the sacrifice of animals to various individuals and creating traditional potions and inflicting various wounds. (Example: I had a patient with an empyema, pus in his chest cavity outside of his lung. Before the patient came to the hospital where I placed a chest tube and drained the pus, the patient had gone to the Marabout, who sacrificed a chicken and then scratched him on the chest with the deceased chicken’s foot, thus combating the spell his mother-in-law had placed on him which was causing his chest pain. He also had to drink a potion created with the deceased chickens most spiritually important parts.) These potions can bring large blessings as well. The less respectable marabouts will use their powers to cast spells on people. Then they run the risk of becoming sorcerers. Sorcerers and marabout will often engage each other to do the other’s dirty work, either in collaboration or at odds, doing and undoing spells, ensuring the other stays in business.

Marabout is not to be confused with Tchoukou. A Tchoukou is an individual who passes out modern medication (which are legally controlled and protected), however, does so with zero formal schooling and zero legal authority. As such, a Tchoukou is illegal, practicing without the authority to use controlled substances, like Tylenol. A Marabout is legal, not using controlled substances.

So if you have appendicitis and a spare chicken, go to the Marabout. If you have a headache and want a pill, any pill, go to the Tchoukou.

First Page

From the Regional Tribunal

To the Medical Director of Bere Adventist Hospital

We have the honor to come and ask you to diagnose Patient R, who was treated at your hospital. And for an equitable judicial decision.

We are counting on your collaboration.

26 May 2015

President of the Tribunal in Lai,


Second Page…


Complaint by Mr N, subsistence farmer living in Village G, Canton T, against Mrs L, housewife living in Village K Canton T in the care of Mr M, for reclamation of the health of his child after poisoning. The accused does not acknowledge the facts.

Next Section…

From the Military Brigade

25 May 2015

The Adjunct-Chief, C, Commander of the Brigade of Research of Bere, Officer of the Judicial Police, Auxiliary of the Attorney General of the Republic for the Tribunal of Great Instance in Lai

To the President of the Tribunal of Great Instance in Lai

I have the honor to willingly transmit to you the presently cited complaint for competent analysis.

The Commander of the Brigade


This next section is the actual formal complaint itself, written by the father of my patient.


I have the honor to come very respectfully before your lofty personality to address this complaint against one named: L, housewife in Village C.

I bring prejudice against her for a very serious affair which is against us. It’s an affair we didn’t even know about. It’s a miracle of God. When my child was sick, we believed it to be a sickness from God. We brought our child to different hospitals, three times to Hospital X and three times also to Bere Adventist Hospital. It was the third time in Bere when the child was operated on. During the operation, they did not detect any sickness. We were obligated to bring him home. Suddenly, the child died. It was during this death that he came back to life just as suddenly as he had died. He automatically denounced the name of the accused, that it was she who killed him. He insisted we take him to her. This was in a big crowd. This is a verified fact. This is not merely an accusation or hearsay. As we said before, it was a miracle of God. We were obligated to bring Madame L. It was a dialogue between her and the child. The child asked her, “What did I do to you at my age that you want to kill me? Please forgive me.” She refused. We were obligated to call the pastors to bless the child in the presence of this sorceress. We believed the affair was finished. We continued without problems. But to our great surprise, she called us before the village chief to say we accused her of being a sorceress. Once judgement was rendered by the village chief, she declared she wanted to take an oath. But the village chief didn’t want that. The question was posed if we should take her to the witch doctor. The village chief delegated one of his advocates to accompany us. Once there, the witch doctor declared the sorceress guilty, that it was in fact this sorceress who was the origin of the death of the child. The witch doctor commanded the sorceress to give the antidote to the child and declared that would heal him. But the sorceress said she didn’t know which antidote to give. The witch doctor himself made a decision and said, “I will give you an antidote, which you will give; if it is not you who poisoned the boy, he will not vomit. If it’s you, he will vomit.” The sorceress then gave the boy this medication before the village chief. The boy vomited, even in public. The medication was finished. Everybody told the sorceress to go get another medication, but she didn’t want to. Now there is a relapse. Everybody says there’s a piece of wood she introduced.

We didn’t do everything, but we don’t have the faculties. We don’t have cold steel nor any other weapon to combat this very sad phenomenon. Afterward, the sorcerers went somewhere to glorify themselves. We don’t know where they went, but they go home unhurt.

Therefore, we don’t have the ability, such as your superior authority as officer of the judicial police, to take the matter into our hands, to discern the good from the evil of this affair.

Waiting for a favorable continuation, Sir the Commander of the Brigade, I present the expression of my most distinguished sentiments.

The interested,


And the final page…

From the Village Chief of T to

The Commander of the Military Brigade of Bere

I have the honor to transmit the complaint of Mr N from the village of G, Canton T against the named Mrs L from village K, Canton T

Motive: Poisoning by fetish (sorcery).

Mr N has filed a complaint against Mrs L, who poisoned his child at the age of twelve (12) years. This woman, L, has been declared a fetisher by the seer of Village A. Having been declared guilty, the conciliation recommends Madame L to give her antidotes to the sick to recover his health, but she didn’t want to. As this is an affair which will lead to certain death, I transmit the case to you.

For the competence of Sir the Commander of the Brigade of Research of Bere.

Done in Canton T, the 22/05/2015

The Village Chief,


Note: The brothers of Madame L have declared that if this affair is taken to the justice, she will not do anything for her brothers, so they leave the matter in your hands.

So witch doctor is better than sorcerer and seer is better than fetisher, I guess.

I’m sorry. I just can’t muster any commentary on this. So sad. What am I doing here? Please pray God somehow gets Himself glorified in all this, cuz I sure don’t know how to do it.

Olen Netteburg

Olen: +235 91 91 60 32
Danae: +235 90 19 30 38

Olen et Danae Netteburg
Hôpital Adventiste de Bere
Boîte Postale 52
Kelo, Tchad

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  1. I don't have any answers except this: God will be glorified when we ask for His help and wisdom. Trust that. May God give you courage for today!

  2. I am praying too. Some things can't really be explained or understood. I'm praying for an answer just as unexplainable.

  3. He will.
    "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:21-22