Today I was hoping to be writing about a great concert I went to yesterday in Conakry, but instead I will write about one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had; an experience that a couple hours later had us laughing and joking about it but in the moment was slightly frightening and could have gone terribly wrong, but it didn’t and now, we have a story to tell…
This all started by my desire to attend a concert here Conakry. I’ve seen posters for concerts all over the place and was really interested in attending one, which I mentioned to one of my local colleagues and a few other of my expat colleagues. Our local colleague went on to tell us about a concert taking place this weekend by one of Guinea’s biggest reggae stars. Everyone became really interested and we decided to buy tickets!
Come Saturday and we were all hyped up about the prospect of a good local concert. Finally our car arrived and set we off the “Palace of the People”. As soon as we got close, we saw the amount of people trying to get in (with or without tickets) and then it dawned on us that this might not be the same level of organisation as back in a developed country…
As we approach the gate were people are trying to get in, we are suddenly surround by people dressed in military uniform are suddenly violently shoving people away from us and telling us that there is another entrance that we should use because that one wasn’t very safe at that point. It was at this point I saw people scattering and smoke from a gas canister on the ground behind us and suddenly I was thinking “What did we get ourselves into??”
Now we were being moving to another gate with an escort of over 5 military. Consdering that we were being given preferential treatment our little escort attracted some other who were either trying to get in by saying they were our “frere” (brother) or sticking their hands in our pockets to see if they could snatch anything valuable from there (At least three or for us felt hands in our pockets).
We were taken to another entrance, however even though there were less people here, there were similar scenes of the military shoving people away from gates and our arrival didn’t help as our military escort was trying to get us in ahead of some of the people already waiting there and once again people were attaching themselves to us saying they were our brothers so that they could get in. Our escort forced us through the crowd and by force; I mean shove us in and others out of the way!
My first thoughts were “Finally we are in and this shit is over!”. That’s what we all thought, however the fun and excitement was not over. Now we were going to be taken to the proper entrance where we would finally get into the concert. As always, surrounded by our military escort we arrived at another point were people were trying to get and here was the real trouble started.
As we were trying to be brought in by our escort, some guy (I guys he was part of the security detail) started losing his mind with us. He was shouting things at us and then at point him and some others just kept telling us to leave quite aggressively and it was at this point that the first guy who was shouting at us, took off his belt and looked like he was going to beat us with it. He was furious and had to be restrained by a couple other officers around him. Suddenly I heard a small explosion similar to that of a cherry bomb firework and that’s when I decided I didn’t want to stay there anymore and everyone else agreed despite the protestations of the escort who said they would find another way in for us.
We made our way from where we came in as soon as we got outside, we made our way to the hotel where our car was waiting for us still being followed by the military escort we had got us in and out and now wanted some rewards for their efforts… Finally we managed to get them off our back and made our way to pub far away from that mess and each just had a beer and reflected on what had just happened. Now we were laughing at the experiences and sharing our little own bits of it to each other.
We laughed and just thought that we could have been the sparks to have caused some kind of riot!
Lesson: Make sure how to get into a concert in Conakry!