Diary of a Back Way Boy

By Vincent Ogo

Letter to Cousin X

July 30, 2021

The story so far…about an African boy from the Smiling Coast desperate to make it to Europe

The guy finally made it when he traveled to Libya, and boarded a boat that, under cover of darkness, took him and about three dozen others to the Italian Island of Sicily, the native land of Don Corleone of the godfather fame. Don’t ask me how he managed to stay put in Italy, even though most of the people that landed with him were later deported. That is another story altogether. “Never say die’s story inspired many of us. That was why I did not give up after my first attempt. 

You remember, how after my return from the Atlantic journey, pronto,  I started working as a labourer at the Banjul Ports, taking 50 KG bags of rice and sugar from warehouses and loading them into lorries. Was it easy? You saw how it made me develop horse muscles. And the pay? I probably would have worked in that place for ages to raise the money to migrate, if not that I met and made friends with that German ship captain, who I begged to allow me stow away in his ship. Though he refused my request, he was kind enough to give me 150 Euros for my troubles. God bless him!

Oh boy, so off I went again, this time by land, going through southern Senegal to Mali, and on to Niger Republic, where the truck we boarded to smuggle us into Libya was attacked by hooded Tuareg rebels, who let us off when they realised we were not merchants but ordinary, long-suffering Africans trying to make our way to Europe. The desert journey was something else!

The tracks are littered with the corpses of many unfortunate young people who died trying to cross the infamous Sahara. Nothing rots in this desert, my brother; the sun bakes every dead creature dry and brittle, both man and beast! My story will not be complete if I fail to mention a town called Duruku. This town, some say it is in Niger territory, others say it is actually inside Libya.

Who can really tell? All I know is that it is situated deep in the desert, in a place that could best be described as no man’s land. It is in that part of the Sahara Desert where you don’t know which is which or where is where, you don’t know if you are in Niger or Mali or Libya or Algeria or Chad. Duruku! That place! What we saw! It is filled with multitudes of stranded Africans, male and female, who ran out of money while on the desperate journey. So, they have to work in Duruku to raise some money to continue the journey. And you can imagine the work they do here! Hewing stones! Duruku is a rocky, mountainous place and provides thick and solid and hard stones for building.

Mighty trucks from God knows where unceasingly appear to carry these stones to God knows where. What I am definitely sure of is that those stones are sold for a lot of money wherever they are taken to. So, the people in charge of the business employ our black brothers to chuck off the stones from the rocks.  You need to see the palms of these stone hewers, and you need to see the muscles they develop as a result of these tough work. Worse still, you need to see the girls. Oh!

Why do folks from this our continent tend to be the wretched of the earth! Ask our greedy politicians who embezzle money and overfeed themselves and grow pot-bellies and fart about the whole place to expel the foul air that accumulate in their stomachs after stuffing themselves fat from the peoples’ resources, the people that have become hewers of stone in Duruku and other places.

Wasn’t I lucky to have survived that journey? 

Well, how I managed to enter Libya and eventually cross the Mediterranean is another story altogether. Anyway I am here at last.

The first priority for an African immigrant here is to evade the police or poliza or polizei or polizi (the name depends on the part of Babylon you are). It is a cat and mouse/lizard game here. A word of advice: before planning to come here, better go and observe the tactics those rats and lizards in your neighbourhood employ trying to escape the vagabond cats prowling about the place.

You will really find such tactics useful when you make it here, joke aside. The police sniff everywhere for illegal immigrants, and always jump with glee whenever they catch any. I had one encounter recently, with a female officer for that matter. Phew! Was it a close call! This anti-illegal alien female officer, she has looks that can charm a monk and enough guts to risk her nice neck; a ‘fiend angelical’, if I am permitted to use that Shakespearean Oxymoron.

That is why I dare not mention the name of the city I am writing from, who knows who else might be reading this mail! These people are very smart, you know.

For now I’m just plotting my next move, I’ll keep you posted.

Cousin X

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