“Where are the men, speak or I’kill you!” by Alexandrine, Burkina Faso

id_alexandrineThere are some moments in life that remain etched in the memory and we re-live the same emotions when we bring back those memories. In regards to the story I’m going to tell you, I still tremble whenever I mention it. We are in 2015 in Lomé, the Togolese capital. The atmosphere is tense. Gnassingbe’s father had given up the ghost and his son seized power following an election criticized by the opposition. Togo is living in an unprecedented post-election crisis. One morning, I was at home with my aunt and my grandmother. It was a quiet morning despite the tear gas and the deaths that occurred the night before. Since the announcement of the election results, the revolt had become quite obvious. In several districts of the capital and also in other cities, the population mobilized to protest and say no to Gnassingbé’s dynasty. The population was in support of the opposition which was claiming victory. Young people set up barricades in the streets to prevent the military from circulating. The response was very violent and bloody. The protests were repressed by the tear gas and live ammunition. Men were particularly targeted. We were staying home where we were safe, but our safety was assumed without calculating the “already hit” operation. We were home that morning. It was only the women of the house. My father was out with my two brothers to get some food and other stuff. We had made sure we carefully closed the gate when they left. I was cooking while my aunt was preparing a herbal tea and my grandmother was filling her snuff. We unscrewed quietly, remembering the events of the day before. I had a scratch on my foot that was the result of a mad race of the day before; fleeing a police patrol, I was injured. I wrapped a cloth around my legs while monitoring the pot on the fire. Suddenly, someone knocked violently at the portal. My aunt, who was fitter than my grandmother and I, got up and went towards the gate, assuming that it must be my father and brothers. She unlocked the padlock on the gate and started screaming when a kick abruptly reversed the gate. In a panic, I got up hastily to flee but how could I move with my legs wrapped in this cursed loincloth! The only refuge, my father’s room, was right behind me. I entered the room, pushed the door, shut it behind me but forgot the key outside. Soon the person who was pursuing me caught me. I finally saw him. A corpulent man in his military fatigues, his eyes blood red, the rest of the face hidden by the hood, Kalashnikov in the hand. He pointed his gun at me, threateningly: “Where are the men? Talk or I’ll kill you!” No sound came out of my mouth. I motioned him to go explore the bedroom of my father. He entered and emerged. I did not move from my place. Stunned by fear. A few minutes when I finally moved, I went out to find that they have trampled my meal, and sundered almost every door of the house. Miraculously the house stood firm; my aunt and my grandmother were crying loudly but luckily unharmed. The next day we drove from neighboring Ghana as refugees.

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