Life in Bouake as a West African National

Has a gun ever been pointed at you close range? On the morning of June 18 2020, I was sleeping when I heard loud bangs on the metal door/gate that served as the entrance to the 3 bedroom house I lived in with 16 other people in Tola, Bouake. The house had 2 single rooms, 1 master bedroom, one toilet and bath, a hall, a kitchen and a garage we used as a storeroom since none of us had a car or motorcycle. I was with 4 other guys in one of the single rooms when the banging started. The other single room had 4 occupants. The master bedroom had 3 people sleeping in it. The hall was home to 7 people. In all, we were 17 people in the house.


As we stirred awake from the banging, someone asked of the time and another responded that it was 4:28am. The guy who responded walked out of the room to check whats happening out there. He came back to tell us in the room that, "come out, they say we should all come out". I got up even though I was a bit sleepy and stepped out of the room to see 2 men in black police uniforms armed to the teeth signaling to me to walk out the main entrance whiles one of them was pointing his gun at those of us coming out from the rooms. I stepped out into the cold wearing a blue stripped short sleeve shirt and a black denim jeans trouser which I was wearing the previous night. I slept whiles watching a movie the previous night so I was fully clothed.

There was a pickup truck and 2 motorcycles in front of the house and more armed men outside, none of them telling us anything or asking us anything. Some of the guys where already seated outside on the bare floor with 3 men wielding weapons guarded them. I wasn't scared or afraid for my life at that moment, I was just shivering like a lead as the cold breeze embraced me. I sat down between 2 guys as directed by one of the armed men. One guy got up to urinate and he was immediately ordered by one of the men to sit down. We started murmuring and one of them who we presumed was their leader who was wearing mufti with a vest on (don't know if it's a bulletproof vest) wielding a pistol signaled that we can go and urinate. Three guys got up to urinate and the leader said we should go "one one". He then asked us, "where are you going?" He didn't wait for a response and went to the house nearby where some Liberians lived.

Someone said something funny all the guys burst out laughing. I opened my mouth to laugh only for my teeth to come together noisily like a hi-hat being played at a pop concert whiles the rest of my body shudder older the early morning weather. One guy who was wearing just boxer shorts and a t-shirt got up go inside and wear better clothing. One of the men pointed a gun at him, don't know if he thought he was escaping or something. All 17 Ghanaians in the house also got up talking simultaneously as if to say, "if you are shooting, you better shoot us all'. Their leader who was talking on the phone came to the scene. We explained to him in basic English with signs that we were shivering and wanted to go back into the house for jackets or heavier clothing. He agreed and about five people got up, he then said, "one one" and added that we should bring any form of identity that we had. My wallet was already in the jeans trouser I was wearing.


One by one, we went back into the house. Those who first went in came to tell us of how the wardrobes and our luggage have been emptied in the bare floor. After the fourth guy, it was now my turn to enter the house. There were two armed men in the hall when I entered so I didn't even look around. I went straight to my room and what I saw perplexed me. The room had been turned upside down. The scene looked like one of an action movie where gangsters scatter rooms in search of pendrives. I saw one of my long sleeved shirts in the corner if the room and went straight for it, fearing w delay might bring one of the men into the room. I went back outside to join the guys and others also got the chance to go in to the house. The last guy went in and sneaked into the bathroom to call our leader who stayed in a different house. Even though I wore a short sleeve shirt and a long sleeved one, I still felt extremely cold.

To be continued...

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