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Americans for African Adoptions Inc. - Angel Update

NIMIT - OUR FIRST "OFFICIAL" AFRICAN ANGEL - by Cheryl Carter-Shotts

There is an African saying that says, "When you live by the sword, you die by the sword." Today, January 16, 2001 one of our African Angels died - by the sword.

Mohammed and Nimit were best friends - click to enlargeHis name was "Nimalte" - everyone called him Nimit. He was Mohammed's best friend from Mali, West Africa. Nimit had been found crawling through the village streets of Gao, Mali, too weak to stand from TB and starvation. He had been brought to the same Red Cross American woman who helped save Mohammed's life. Mohammed helped nurse Nimit back to life.

Nimit was the first official "African Angel" we placed as Americans for African Adoptions, Inc. was created. He was 12 or 13 when he joined his new family, Raymond and Tona Moore of Bloomington, Indiana. Living in Bloomington helped Mohammed and Nimit stay best friends. Together Nimit and Mohammed always spoke their multiple languages, helping each other maintain their languages and their culture.

Nimit was healthy but uneducated when he came to America. Education was a challenge since living in the Sahara Desert Nimit had never been to school, but he eventually graduated from Indiana University. While attending school Nimit raised camels on his father's Bloomington farm. At one point Nimit had 35 camels until neighbors began to complain of the odor.

Nimit was truly connected to the Sahara. He was part Tuareg and part Bella. He seemed to need to return frequently to the desert. On one of his trips back Nimit met "Lala", fell in love, brought her to Bloomington as his fiancée and they married. The Sahara continued to draw Nimit to the desert and in 1999 he began arranging tours for small groups of foreigners curious about the Sahara and Timbuktu and all that it is. On his last trip in to the Sahara Lala went with him.

Suddenly, Nimit's mother called me from Bloomington, terribly distraught. Nimit and Lala had been at a large, long wedding in the outskirts of the village of Gao, Mali. People had been jealous of Nimit, many people had been angry because he had persuaded his adoptive parents to also adopt his younger brother, "Intidane" in 1996, and because his African, nomad mother allowed Intidane to go.

I had always been surprised that Nimit hadn't pushed for his young sister to be adopted. I will always remember holding her in my arms on a trip into the Sahara. She was a toddler then; she peed all down the front of me. Diapers don't exist in the Sahara but pee dries quickly in the desert heat. She's on her own now - she's a teenager.

Nimit - click to enlargeIntidane and Nimit weren't supposed to leave the Sahara. They weren't supposed to be educated. They weren't supposed to be free. Mohammed was handicapped, it wasn't as much of a problem that he left the desert. Nimit wasn't supposed to go.

During the wedding festivities many people, including invited military friends, were shooting guns in the air. One man layed down his gun. Another man, angry and jealous about Nimit's freedom in America, picked up the gun and shot Nimit between his eyes, killing him instantly.

Nimit's murderer was briefly jailed. People wanted to say it was an accident. Nimit's body was held in a Gao hospital waiting for his parents and best friend to connect up with Lala, to come for him. Tona and Raymond Moore, his brother Intidane and his best friend Mohammed, made the long treck back to the Sahara. Some of the people who loved Nimit deeply returned to the desert to bury Nimit in the desert he so loved. His beautiful Malian wife Lala returned to Bloomington with her in-laws, hopeful that U.S. Immigration allows her to become a U.S. citizen in honor of her now deceased, beautiful Nimit. They did- Lala is now a U.S. citizen.

The hours after the call from Nimit's mother, Tona, were a blur as I tried to help our friends who did not have a visa to enter Mali. The Malian Embassy agreed to fax the Moore's a "travel letter" explaining the circumstances. Senator Richard Lugar's staff liaison for foreign affairs in Indianapolis was tremendously helpful. The U.S. Embassy counselor officer provided her home and cell phone numbers.

Nimit had delighted his American sister the month before, when he called on the satellite phone he was leasing for his little tourist business, sitting atop a camel in the Sahara, telling her how happy he was to be able to phone her, to connect with his American life, while bouncing along the desert he loved, on the camels he felt so connected with. Nimit was a handsome, 26 year old young man, full of life, good health and love for the Sahara.

Rest in peace Nimit. You have returned to the Sahara you so love.
We love and miss you.
Mohammed's Mom

Many of our families e-mailed to offer gentle words about Nimit's death. Some asked what happened to Mohammed and Nimit's family when they went in to the Sahara to bury Nimit.

My heart was breaking as I know Mohammed's was. It felt as if I have lost my own child, perhaps because Nimit felt like a son to me. He was the first official "African Angel" we placed and one whom I saw more often than any of the other children.

Young Nimit - click to enlarge Nimit was like a brother to Mohammed. The boys were on the phone often, they always spoke in their native language of Tomashek. Our families were drawn together by our children, by our sons' experiences and by our own travels to the Sahara in the country of Mali.

A memorial service was held to celebrate Nimit's life. It was one of the saddest days I ever experienced. The minister at the family church in Bloomington estimated 1,000 people attended the service. One of Nimit's college buddies flew in from Peru. Family and friends came from New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Washington and Florida.

Six of us spoke about Nimit's life - Mohammed couldn't speak so he sat on the stage, behind me holding my hand while I spoke. I could not have gotten through it without him. A friend of the family took many photos of Nimit, his family and Mohammed and put together a beautiful presentation of Nimit's life in America and Mali and displayed it above the stage to haunting music - two, 10 minute periods of photos of Nimit's life.

Diane Sawyer sent a huge basket of plants and flowers. Two local television stations and two newspapers covered Nimit's service. It was the 3rd story the Bloomington, Indiana newspaper wrote about Nimit's death; two were their front page headline story. One of the TV stations reported Nimit's memorial service as their top story.

Nimit - click to enlargeAt the end of the service, half of the people followed a funeral caravan to the former Moore family farm, where Nimit had raised his camels. The new owners have left two, large, black camel paintings on the side of the barn. They had named the farm "Camel Lot" in honor of Nimit, never thinking it would be in memory of then 26 year old Nimit. They had planted a tree for Nimit and after the memorial service we all dedicated it in Nimit's memory.

Nimit's parents, brother and Mohammed had a very difficult time in Gao, Mali. The U.S. Embassy counsellor officer did not want the little group to go in to the desert to bury Nimit but his parents and Lala wanted to bury him in the Sahara he loved so much. An American pilot with a small plane flew them in to Gao.

Family members of the man who killed Nimit tried to force Nimit's dad to sign a police statement saying Nimit had been shot accidentally. He refused.

When Mohammed and Raymond Moore unwrapped Nimit's body, which had been held in a hospital freezer, they could see he had been shot once, between the eyes, obviously not an accident. Raymond said that for the 5/6 hours they were on the ground in Gao he thought they would all be killed. Mohammed will say little about what happened except that he agrees with Raymond. Raymond says Mohammed negotiated their safety the entire time they were in the Sahara.

The family and Mohammed buried Nimit while the pilot stayed with his little plane; then they all flew back to Bamako where they spent the next week trying to get back to Indiana, via Paris, to begin preparations for Nimit's memorial service. Mohammed stayed in Bloomington to help Nimit's family.

Nimit was truly connected to the Sahara - click to enlargeI struggle to make sense of all of this. I believe in God but why would God allow this to happen? Nimit was healthy, happy, full of life and energy. He dearly loved Lalla. He had big, ongoing plans and goals. He was becoming an astute business man. He was dividing his time between Indiana and the Sahara which thrilled him. A contract was being developed to make an Imax film about Tuaregs in the Sahara with Nimit playing a major role. He was trying to help the children of his village of Gao to become educated. He wanted to help with wells and schools that Gao needs. His expedition company of Malian tours had started to grow. Some people were jealous, but how insane that in today's world something like this could happen.

I will forever remember Nimit being frustrated with his camels and in his frustration, yelling, "He won't work" as he thrust his hand in the air, talking about his beloved camel's stubbornness.

My heart ached as I closed my little talk about Nimit. I looked up to the heavens and told Nimit that I needed his strength to help me continue working with the orphan children of Africa. I touched my heart and promised Nimit that he would always be with me, "right here in my heart".

Many e-mails and photos were placed on bulletin boards in the church lobby, alongside Nimit's camel saddle and some of his personal belongings. One friend described Nimit with these words:

"It is hard to describe Nimit well as he was easily the most complex and multi-faceted person I knew. Nimit was like a wise man, a warrior, a clown and a teenager all rolled into one. He saw life in a simple way that cut through all the junk and went straight to the heart of the matter. He was honest in a way that was both blunt and gentle.

"Everything he said was with both honesty and laughter. He was always laughing about something even when he was quite serious underneath. It was just the way he was. To put it simply, he was amazing."

Enjoy the Sahara Nimit. You will always be with me, right here, in my heart.

We love you,
Mohammed's Mom