A West African Country

“Dad, Where Are You Taking Me?”

My story is very sad.

Michael Best
Michael Best
Michael Best, Western Africa

Editing by Twila Bird

Photography by Kristi Burton

My story is very sad. Tears are running in my eyes because when I was in my country, I had my family — my wife and two children. I was taking good care of them. I had a job.

I lived in a West African country where I was president of an okada (motorcycle taxi) organization. We employed thousands of youth with motorcycles. They are very popular in my country. Then the government, they said they don’t want okadas in the capital city.  But this is how the youth sustained their life. They used the money to take care of their families. It’s how I sustained my family.

So the boys went out in the street demonstrating. There was a riot. Police in the streets started shooting live bullets and tear gas. People were running. After two days the newspapers said they wanted the president and executive members of the Bikeriders’ Union dead or alive. They captured two of our executive members and put them in prison. So I didn’t have an option. I took my wife and two children to Niger.

I decided to go to Libya to look for a job. I had been there in 2004 and it was good when Gaddafi was president. It was good then and I thought it would be the same now. So I asked my wife. She said, “You go ahead and when you have a job and a place to stay, I can join you.” I didn’t want to leave her with both of our children to take care of so my daughter came with me. Our four-year-old son stayed with my wife.

We went to Libya. We were in the desert for six days with only water to drink. It was very difficult. My daughter was only seven. When we reached Libya, rebel Arab people caught us. They took everything. Then I didn’t have my phone to communicate with my wife. A man came and took us to a big house. There were plenty of black people there, young and old. Many children. The next night, around one o’clock many Arab people came with guns. They said, “If you resist, then we shoot you.” So I held my daughter’s hand. She was crying, saying, “Dad, where are you taking me?” They forced us into a boat and took us to Italy.

My wife didn’t know we were in Italy. I had no way to tell her. She tried to find me in Libya. She and our son fell into the hands of Arab rebels there and were in prison for four months. I didn’t know if they were dead or alive. Later, someone told me my wife was in prison and if I gave them money, they would release her. My friends in camp helped me get 800 Euro. I sent it for my wife and they released her, but I didn’t want her to go through Libya again. I told her to return to our home. So now my wife and son are there and my daughter and I are in Italy. But I praise God that my family is safe.

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