In Memoriam: Mamadou Niang, Fulah localizer

Guest post from Mozilla Fulah community leader, Ibrahima Saar. UPDATE: Added pictures and a PayPal link for donations to the Mamadou’s family.

It is with deep pain that we announce that our friend, teammate Mamadou Niang died in an accident while traveling from rural town Matam to Dakar to attend a workshop at his organization’s headquarters. We had just had a meeting the day before to sprint to our 31st October deadline for Firefox localization. His last words, the morning before he traveled: “Don’t worry, I will be available to work on Pontoon while away.” Mamadou Niang has been working as a Fulah specialist and rural development project coordinator for the organization Tostan (Humanitarian and Literacy). He was the co-organizer of our 2014 workshop in Dakar while also very busy moving around villages on his motorbike. Also Niang was almost the person who took care of many families as he was the only one earning a salary among a large family. He was my friend and mentee and I am so sad.

After the online meeting we had, he told me that he would leave for the town of Thiès the next morning. The city of Thiès is about 500 kilometers from where he worked. Actually Mamadou is from a small village called Aram, on the river Senegal in the far north of the country. Aram is a well-known village because a very famous Fulah singer who invented a new musical genre called “Pekaan” is from there. it is a fisherman’s village where everyone has fishing as a traditional occupation and that occupation is a very important cultural aspect because it consists not only of fishing but all the cultural practices that go with fishing.

That community of villages across the north of Senegal and the south of Mauritania is well known for their knowledge of water and the spirits of the river. If some of you you remember, you might have heard about many Firefox terms derived from the practice of fishing. Terms like “aspect ratio” and “Time Out” are directly derived from that community’s fishing tools and practices. Mamadou and I are both from that community and are also a specialist of the language. That, plus the fact he was working in the field in rural areas, made Mamadou Niang a valuable asset for the Fulah localization team.

On Wednesday, October 25th Mamadou was on a trip to the headquarters of his organization for a workshop. He frequently traveled there on public transport to attend meeting, submit reports, and the like. Last year, he posted on Facebook a photo warning people that the trip from Matam to Dakar was extremely difficult and dangerous and people should be very careful. He also called on the government to repair roads and make them more secure. Sadly, he died in a public transport accident on the same type of vehicle that he posted it on Facebook.

When he left in the morning I told him that we would chat after he’d arrive. He also assured me that he would be available for working on Pontoon while away. The day before we struggled to get him migrate his account from Pootle to Pontoon, since I could not see him on the team list to change his permissions. He had an extremely slow connection and we only succeeded late in the afternoon. Actually, I proposed he translate one string so that I can see him on the list of contributors, which he did. I added him to the Fulah team finally.

I have been mentoring Mamadou Niang for a few years now and I was so happy to see him contribute so much especially on Firefox OS back in 2014. Then he was also very active spreading the word about Firefox because he had first-hand contact with people learning local languages as part of his work for the organization Tostan. In 2014 he was very active helping me recruit people who would participate in the workshop we organized in Dakar, the capital of Senegal from the 3rd to the 6th of March. He was very very valuable to me because most of the people who subsequently participated in the workshop did not know me and there was no way I could get in touch with them. Most of them indeed are working in rural areas where literacy work is the most needed it was the first time to meet him and to meet many of the people who participated in the workshop. Since, we have become very very good friends and we chatted on Facebook or spoke on the phone virtually every day.

Although he was using a very busy traveling across the countryside on his motorbike, he helped a lot with translation work on Pootle. Since we migrated translations to Pontoon, it was his first time to come to the new platform to set up his account and start working. Unfortunately that lasted less than 24 hours.

We will miss Mamadou very much because he was so kind, so helpful to all and always joking. He was also very active in his Village to help with projects on human development as well as literacy. He was a husband and a young father who took care of many families. Therefore he left his family with sorrow and also concerned for the future. May his soul rest in peace.

A fund is being raised for Mamadou Niang’s family. If you are interested in contributing, please visit PayPal.

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