Just when I thought I had climaxed my trip to Togo with an amazing night chill out (read here), little did I know the ultimate climax was yet to be experienced. I was all set to leave Togo to Ghana after a beautiful travel experience but I had to quickly pass by a place called Place d’Independent to meet a friend before continuing my journey home. I stopped a cap and told the driver where I was going “place d’Independent” (I pronounced it exactly as it’s written not with a French accent), he asked again where am going(we spoke in ewe) and once again I replied “place d’Independent” then he said do I mean “président”?(pronounced pres dans) “I don’t know but I guess it is’ was my respond. He asked a man around for direction which he was given and off we go. Less than 10 minutes we arrived at président, I got down from the cap to take a picture of the place whiles waiting for my friend to arrive. I snapped the first picture before the driver even noticed and he quickly said “Photography isn’t allowed here” I must admit, those words scared me so I turned and saw a man walking directly towards us. At that moment I knew there was trouble and that’s when I realized I was at the residence of the president.
The man first asked why the driver parked his car where we were standing, the driver then explained to him I was meeting a friend there, he asked for the drivers license and started searching the car, he continued the search to search through my bags and when he was convinced we weren’t terrorists, he asked me for the picture I took of the place and why I took it?. I explained to him I asked to be taken to Place d’Independent and I was brought here so obviously, I thought it was the place that’s why I begun taking pictures until the driver told me it was forbidden. He crossed the street back to the security post with my phone and the drivers driver’s license and came back after 10 minutes with another man. He also started questioning myself and the driver and made a call to my friend whom I was supposed to meet at Place d’Independent, I asked him after the call if we could leave and I got a big NO. We waited few minutes and then here comes the 3rd man in uniform(a soldier), mehnn I knew I was in trouble but then I didn’t realize how serious it was until a third person was involved. He also questioned us and once again we had to wait for the verdict but this time around I was thinking they were going to let us go. Not long after a van parked by where we were standing, 3 men got down from the van 2 in uniform but the 3rd wasn’t! they were police men. The soldier handed us over to them and left. The man who wasn’t in uniform did his own questioning after which he asked us to sit in the cab with the 2 police men in uniform and follow him.
The first question I asked was “where are you taking us?” one of the police men replied to a place to meet someone, who I asked? He said “don’t worry we’re not going to do anything bad to you”. His words got me a little relieved but I just couldn’t stop asking myself these silly questions “what if they’re going to rape me or what if they just decide to shoot us and dump our bodies somewhere?. It didn’t take long to arrive at the place, my silly thoughts quickly disappeared and I felt a little more comfortable. We were taken to see the man in charge of the place, I can’t tell who he really is but am guessing he holds a high authority in the police service tho he wasn’t in uniform. He asked to see the picture I took, searched my bags and questioned the driver and I.
After a long interrogation, he asked for the presence of my friend before we would be allowed to go. My friend made it to the location where I was, the drivers boss also made it(he is such a nice person). We immediately finalized everything, I deleted the picture and my phone was finally handed over to me. Aahhhh it was such a relieve after 2 hours of being held for questioning and my phone taken away from me.
Lessons: Ignorance of the law is truly not an excuse. When you travel to a country where you’re not familiar with their laws, it’s best to find out from the locals before doing something that might get you into trouble. I was lucky enough to not get arrested for taking pictures, you just might not get lucky as I did.