Five days in African Jail

Being on a three day African Train journey between Kigoma and Dar es Salaam the story of how Burkina Faso caught me up in jail comes back to me. I have never wrote anything about it before but it was on a similar train ride that it all happened.

Me and my American Friend Travis had border the train in the Burkina capital Ouagadougou in order to visit some Belgian friends and go to a music festival in Bobo Diolasso, while our visas to Ghana were being issued at the embassy.

It started as a nice train ride. We were drinking cheap wine and our favorite African beer called “Brakina” chatting to a girl from the Ivory Coast who was working as a model in London and was happy to meet tourists in West Africa where she was from.

It was then that the trouble started. A super drunk local guy were shouting at us in French that “le blancs” were coming here to steal their ladies while he raised his fists. A policeman was quick to arrive and immediately asked what was going on and to see our papers. We showed him our passport copies and explained that our passports were at the Ghana Embassy, but then he just said “biig problem” and asked for 10 us dollar bribe. Knowing that we had not done anything wrong we refused and ended up having to join him to the police office at the train station where they questioned us for hours.

After repeating the story for the tenth time and after they had looked through all our luggage, phone photos etc they said “OK, we will take you to where you are staying tonight”. “Great!” we thought and got on their motorbikes where they were pretending to find “Villa Bobo” where our Belgian friends were staying, but instead they drove us through some guarded gates and then more officers helped them drag us into a cell where they told us that this is the place we would spend the night.

Night after night passed and when we asked for information or a phone call, they just took away our water and told us to sit down on the bench. Rice or spaghetti with some sauce was brought to us 1-2 times a day and they escorted us to the messiest toilet I have ever seen three times a day. The rest of the time we were just waiting until we saw the faces of the Belgians walking through the door, shouting excitedly “it’s them!”. Apparently they had reported us missing and vouched for us when they were told that we were being locked up.

We were still not fee men, but instead were escorted by two officers to the train station, where they joined us (on first class which we didn’t have to say for!) all the way to Ouagadougou where a friend was waiting at the train station with our passports. The police then let us go and we caught the same train heading back to Bobo Diolasso and our Belgian friends. This time as free men with out passports.