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A Life Cut Too Short

Amadou Cisse, a very quiet, very intelligent 29 year Senegalese man recently finished the requirements for his doctorate in chemistry and was to receive his diploma in a few days at Rockefeller Chapel at the University of Chicago. His thesis adviser, Professor Steven Sibener, said he was very proud of him and had the emptied bottle of champagne in Amadou’s honor up on the shelf with those of his other successful doctoral students. On Monday, Nov. 20, about 1:30 a,m. Cisse walked home from what might have been a congratulatory party. Not far from his home on one of the darker streets just beyond the university neighborhood, another young man got out of a car and shot him fatally in the chest. Neither his wallet nor his books were taken. The killer sprang back into his two-colored car and drove off. As a toddler, Amadou lost his father fighting in a war with Gambia. His mother, a nurse, raised him, his younger brother, Alioune, and sister, Ndeye in a quiet section of Dakar. At 16, Amadou won a World Federation scholarship to study in the Sangre de Cristo mountains in New Mexico. This was followed by a scholarship to Bates College in Maine and then another to the doctoral program at Chicago. He was clearly one of the outstanding Senegalese students of his generation.

While family gathered in hot Dakar and a Senegalese expat community gathered in chill Chicago, Alioune spoke to a Chicago Tribune reporter about Amadou. “He sent me a check every month so that I could pursue my own studies at the U. of Toulouse without continuing to work at a gas station. The checks were never late.” He said that his brother wanted to reform Senegal, wanted to run for office, even the presidency. He was, he added, “very intelligent.” The day’s NY Times reports that the streets of Dakar are swarming with street hawkers whom the country’s old president wants to ban from doing what they’ve been doing from time immemorial. I don’t remember seeing them in my one day in Dakar on mid-February, 1981. En route from Casablanca to Freetown, I’d stopped overnight in Senegalese capital, taken a cab downtown to the Place d’Independence, then walked around dark streets, ducking into a boulangerie here, a caf