|Not long after our arrival,
I was a short distance along the street from my hotel in the centre of
Ougadogou when suddenly I was grabbed from behind and a large jagged combat
style knife was held against my stomach and a gravelly voice muttered something
aggressive in my ear. I didn’t know what he said but I can only assume it went
along the lines of ‘give me all your money or I’ll kill you’.
|I could actually feel the
tip of the blade digging into my stomach just to the right of my belly button,
perhaps nicely inline with my intestines and I didn’t much fancy them exiting
my body at this point, as the ground beneath my feet was not oozing cleanliness
by any means. It would have taken a lot more than the little bottle of hand
sanitizer I was carrying in my pocket to put it right.
|Suddenly another smaller
knife came at me from the front; this one was placed in the upright position
and would have gone nicely up behind my ribcage.
|Very quickly, hands were
thrust in and out of my pockets and I watched my wallet, both my UK and my new
local phone, my drivers licence my credit and debit cards, my Euro’s, Dollars
and local currency disappear in rapid succession.
|The most remarkable thing
about this mugging was the fact that it was done so openly. It was not an
isolated area it was the main drag. People were everywhere. In fact some
passers by started to look over and point to others with an expression that
said ‘Look there’s a guy getting mugged’.
|That was when things took a
turn for the worse. Some security guys guarding a bank opposite, with best
intentions, approached the muggers wielding clubs. At this point, harsh words
were exchanged between them and the muggers retreated behind me with a tighter
grip. I guess I was going to be used as a sort of human shield if things got
|I decided my best bet was to
keep a close eye on the big combat knife and not make any sudden moves. I
calculated that the other knife, which was only about 4 inches in length, might
have been survivable but not the big jagged one. That would have been game
over. So I watched it carefully. I didn’t want to make a sudden move straight
away, but if I thought that knife was going to lunge, I would grab it as fast
as I could.
|It was strange, but for a
moment, while these guys were shouting at each other in local language, all of
that drowned-out and I started to think how what I was doing, somehow compared
to a ‘test your reflexes’ game I had played some years back in a pub, where you
put a coin in and waited for a red dot or something to appear before pressing a
button and it would measure how fast your reaction was. I was relieved to
recall I had been quite good at this game and perhaps my experiences in playing
it would now emerge as the very thing that saved my life, as I grabbed his arm
the moment I sensed his muscles tensing to do so.
|But it wasn’t to be.
Instead, one of the security guys lunged forward with an extendable cosh and
the muggers simply fled. Then ensued a minor chase sequence with very little
panache, in which the muggers got away on a small moped.
|I was left in the street
with a few concerned local folk who seemed to sympathise with my plight, but
without speaking the same language all I could do was an over exaggerated
impression that demonstrated I now had very empty pockets.
|In fact, I couldn’t help
being slightly impressed with how the muggers had managed to literally remove
every little item I had on me. My room key and even a spare sim card I had,
everything was gone. As far as muggings go that was probably quite a good one.
I imagined that by now they were celebrating back at their mugging headquarters
trying to figure out if my hand sanitizer had any street value.
|I had heard about instances
where shock comes on later after a ‘traumatic event’ but it never did. I simply
appreciated still being alive. In any case, to me, this mugging didn’t even
compare to the violation I had felt over our equipment not being shipped.
|I went back to the hotel
and, apart from some hassle at reception because I had no identification to
prove who I was and get a new key to my room, I actually had one of the best
night’s sleep I would get the whole trip.
|Little did I know that the
repercussions of this incident would come somewhat later.