Posted by Write In My Journal on November 8th, 2009 filed in Man, Refugee, Unemployed


Ayayi’s story is a unique one. He’s a political refugee from a small African nation and was unable to write his own story because he’s legally blind. I bought him lunch, he talked and I wrote.

As we talked, I learned that he was a political refugee from Togo, an African country west of Ghana. He was an influential figure in fighting for democracy in his country.

Because he spoke broken English, I was only able to take notes but I think you’ll get the gist. This is his story of his fight for democracy:

Aiyia Entry 01

I lived under a dictator. If you say something against him in the daytime they will kidnap you at night and you’ll disappear.They’ll kill you and throw you in the bush for the lions.

Ayayi went with six other students to the president of the country (who had been in power for decades) and said they wanted a fair election or the students would protest.

We were at university and called ourselves M05 – Movement October 5th – which was the day the students were going to walk out and protest if they didn’t have a fair election.

When they protested, they tore down statues of the president. His friend climbed up on one of the statues and was shot by the military.

Later, the president offered the students and their lawyer 6 million francs to stop causing trouble and made their lawyer President of Civil Rights in Togo. The lawyer went on TV, showed everyone the bribe. After seeing that on TV, everyone started protesting – women and children, too.

Stories about throwing rocks and being hit with tear gas.

It escalated into a riot. Buildings were on fire, smoke everywhere in the city.

For the first two weeks, the military was only authorized to use tear gas. On week three the president said 100 civilians would die if one of his soldiers did – gave soldiers permission to use deadly force.

People from Ghana and Nigeria were finding bodies of people from Togo in the ocean.

“Yesterday I found 300 people in the ocean.”

Was caught by the police/military Nov. 19, 1989. Put in a torture camp called Kazaboua Agombio – Red Blood Camp. They were forced to look at the sun which is how he became blind.

Of the seven people (including himself) who originally went to the president to try to get a democratic election:
- Four of them were found dead
- One man was never seen again
- Only Ayayi and his friend survived

There’s more to the story, but I couldn’t get it all down/remember it. Ayayi is now in Salt Lake trying to find work, but can’t do much because his English is still fairly broken and is legally blind.

As an aside, this was a real wake-up call for me. You hear of these things happening on CNN in two minute segments and it doesn’t seem real. And there I was sitting across from a man who had lived it.

It’s amazing and humbling to think that there are only two men on earth who know that story and I was able to meet one of them. And now the story has been preserved and shared with everyone who reads this. At the risk of sounding dramatic, suddenly the purpose behind the site feels much deeper now.

What are your thoughts? Your reactions to his story? Please let me know in the comments.


20 Responses to “Ayayi”

  1. Meghan Says:

    Wow…what an intense story. I feel humbled to have read it. I also agree that those CNN segments feel very distanced and far away from the everyday lives of most Americans and that events like this aren’t just on the silver screen- that they happen to real people all over the globe. Maybe he doesn’t need a regualar job, just a ghostwriter to write his story down and get it published. I’d buy it in a heart beat.

  2. Michelle Johnson Says:

    Ayayi is a very brave young man answering to a call higher than even himself. What he’s endured is astounding and yet he keeps trying to move forward to make a difference with his life. He’s definitely someone everybody can look up to.

    I agree with Megan about having someone write his story. I’d buy it too. Hope all is well.

  3. Write In My Journal Says:

    I agree – it would be great to hear his whole story. Anyone want to take on the challenge of writing it? I have his contact info. :)

  4. bethh Says:

    I feel sad after reading his story. He’s probably about my age but his prospects seem dim, and I wonder what will happen with him. I hope that things turn out well for him, twenty years after his capture, but I don’t feel terribly optimistic. What a brave man.

  5. Kelly Jean Says:

    I met this guy!! I was so sad, because I didn’t have any money on me that day… but we had a nice chat during lunch. I admire your active desire to understand people and hear their individual stories. This is definitely a humbling one to read about… thanks for sharing!

  6. Ali S. Says:

    Wow! Been missing the updates but I’m so glad to see such a stunning story put up. Ayayi, and his friends are hero’s in my eyes! They stood up for their rights and the rights of others. Absolutely an amazing character and wish there was more to be said about his life. :)

    Keep up the great work!

  7. Erin Says:

    This is one of your best stories yet. So striking.

  8. Jack Says:

    Awesome and daunting to hear. Too bad our news is so filtered here in the states.

    Glad you’re back posting again.

  9. Zach Says:

    Great story.

  10. Melisa Says:

    Very wonderful post!

    Your experience meeting this man and knowing his story is priceless. I hope Ayayi would get some attention and enough help. I also hope there’d be more amazing encounters like this–and then you share them again with us. ^^

  11. Write In My Journal Says:

    Thanks everyone for the comments! It’s uplifting to hear that people enjoy the site and are gaining something from reading it.

    I’m on the lookout for more stories and will get the next one up ASAP. If anyone else wants to contribute, you’re always welcome to – click the “contribute” link at the top of the sidebar for details.

  12. Aunt Rae Says:

    Cool story!

  13. jojo lola Says:

    that was a heartbreaking story. if this book got publish i would totally read it and tell every one about it. I told my friend about this and Omg this story was amazing

  14. Marc Says:

    stunning – so great to have this journal!

  15. Rose Says:

    I bet for all we might think his life sounds like it is going no where right now, that he appreciates every second.

  16. Aunt Rae Says:

    I wish you had the time to update this more. Danny and I met a girl on Trax the other day that I would have LOVED to interview (or have you interview). This could become a TV show…

  17. Zee Says:

    I originally got onto my laptop to go and find a topic to write in my journal about for a Language Arts assignment, but I somehow I stumbled across this page and the instant my eyes were finished reading this story…done. I had favorited this page. I may be young (7th Grade), but I got inspired so much by this story, I wanted to take it, print it out and slap it into my journal. Coming from African-American and Chinese parents, I feel the sympathy for both of my cultures, and I started to get a bit wide-eyed, I had just finished listening to a song that can relate to this awful, CNN-like story. I then wrote this all in my journal the next day (Taking up 3 pages) and made my LA Teacher read this. I must say that this is very inspirational! This is the best cause of my wandering mind :)

  18. John Says:

    Is this blog dead? I hope not!

  19. Christina Says:

    What a courageous man; humbling indeed.

    It’s a wonderful blog that you — and your contributers — write. I hope you will come back here with more stories.

  20. Write In My Journal Says:

    @zee – Glad I could help. :)

    @John – It’s on sabbatical. Thinking of taking a new approach and have someone who is interested in helping. Stay tuned.