Life seemed to be ecstatic growing up as a kid and into a young adult. At age 19, I enrolled at the University of Buea graduating three years later with a Bachelors of Science degree. As a graduate, I was among the thousands who had earned degrees but could not find a job. I had gained my membership into “chôma-camp” a word coined from the French word “chômage,” meaning unemployment.
All efforts to make a living yielded no fruits. What was next? I wondered. Like millions of people, I gazed towards the north of Africa, with hopes and the desire to get to Europe to make a life and a name for myself.
I remember the day I left for Nigeria via Mamfe. I had no idea of my future, but I was hopeful I was going to get to the other side of the bridge – Europe. After spending a couple of weeks in Nigeria, I left for Libya by road through Niger and Algeria bent on crossing the Mediterranean sea to Europe.
At every roadblock, I was determined to move on. I had gone too far to retreat. Returning to Cameroon was the last option. With no money left, and depending on support from family was the reason I was never going to go back to Cameroon, my country of no hopes.
We paid some men to drive us to Algeria across the Sahara desert, and about 20 minutes into our drive, these men brandished a gun at us and drove off. With no better means of transportation, we were forced to trek to Algeria. We followed the stars, and the city lights just like the Three Wisemen and arrived Algeria after about 20 hours. This is a speck of the sufferings we encountered on our journey. Not to talk of the number of corpses of those who could not make it to their destination. Sad!
Life In Libya
We were captured, bought by a Nigerian, who contracted us as slaves to the Libyans. We worked for hours, slept in a dungeon with no bathrooms. They flogged us with sticks and machetes, starved us, our girls raped in front of us, and sometimes we were left to die or killed. We were traded as goods and services, kidnapped and asked to call our families for ransoms. Many times I escaped only to be recaptured, and the cycle continued.To a Libyan, our lives do not matter.
Several months had gone by since I left Cameroon and my dreams were far-fetched. I soon found favor in a Nigerian slave trader, through whom I started working hours as a residential slave and was able to escape in a bid to continue my journey to Europe.
Twice, we were captured by the sea pirates or the “asma boys” and taken back to our den. Many times I have concluded in believing that was God’s miraculous doings in my life. I may have ended up dead.
Bracing the Waves
It was nighttime, we boarded the famous migrant boats (lampa-lampa) or what I call inflated balloons. In four hours you’ll be in Europe, they said. A day had gone by; night had fallen, the sun was going down, we were cold, some had died, the crowded boat filled with men and women who had no idea of what laid ahead. We were in the middle of the treacherous high waters; hope seemed far, tears filled our eyes. With our little compass and with the help of the waves, we sailed to our destiny hoping for a positive outcome.
Photo Credit: Google
The feeling I had at the sight of an Italian rescue ship was that which I will never be able to explain. It seemed like I was in a trance. As a matter of fact, I was in a daze. I could not recall my name; I could not speak, I just could not believe I survived the whole ordeal. I was cold, frightened, sad, crying, not sure of my fate but I was alive.
After closed to a day on the ship, we arrived Italy, where we were processed and taken to the refugee camp. I wish my memory had a delete button; I wish I could use an eraser to erase all the sufferings and pain I encountered. I hate to recount my story; each time I try to recount my entire ordeal, tears fill my eyes whenever I try to. But each time I take a look at the past I am determined to work hard and above all Give God All The Glory. To all the friends I lost, I pray for their souls. To those still in Libya, may God save them.
I Am A Libya Survivor
(True story of a Cameroonian who survived the Libya slavery, the rough waters in search of greener pastures in Europe)