Libreville Airport, Bellview Airlines, LBV-LOS, Martin, Man Friday, Flight delayed, Cameroon Airlines, LBV-DLA, Refuelling stop, How can I board?

There is always a solution!

One of the things I love about Africa, and there are plenty of other reasons too, is that while problems can come from anywhere, there is always a solution as well. In fact, there is usually one sure shot way to solve all kinds of problems.

But this was a supposedly high security area and I wasn’t keen on getting arrested for offering a bribe, so I looked helplessly for these two kind gentlemen to propose a solution instead. When they exchanged a quick glance at each other and then turned 360 degrees to survey how far they were from anyone else, I knew that ‘the’ solution might just work in this situation as well.

That is when the taller of the two lowered his voice, and asked me if I had €500 on me!

One thumb rule of shady negotiations is, never accept the initial offer. That would make the other party feel that they lost an opportunity, and they would always insert clauses, to make sure you end up paying more. Besides, I am Indian and accepting a first bid without bargaining, could probably make my father disown me.
So we had an interesting five minute chat, and eventually settled for a €400 deal, which would take care of ‘everything necessary’, to make sure I board ‘that’ flight and leave the Libreville airport. Once the flight takes off, I would be on my own, and whatever happens thereafter will not be their concern, and should it all go downhill, nothing could be traced back to these two law-abiding gentlemen.
That part of ‘everything necessary’ was significant in the context, due to two major reasons:

A) I didn’t have a valid ticket/boarding pass for this flight.

B) I had to clear the immigration process to board the flight, and that would involve many other people. That could potentially jeopardise the whole deal.

There was a third issue which I wanted them to include among ‘everything necessary’ but they flatly refused and I couldn’t push my luck, since I knew it was above their pay grade.

I was planning to land in a different country without a valid entry visa!!!

This was why the first thing I did after we had arrived at some sort of a verbal agreement, was to make a call to a friend and a colleague who was based in Douala. An Indian expatriate called BS, who had been working in Africa for a while and being based in Douala, he was expected to have ‘contacts’, who can handle a tricky situation like this.
He received my call with a lot of warmth, but when I explained the situation I was in, he seemed a bit hesitant to offer his help. But of course, after initial few words discouraging me from taking on such a misadventure, he realised that I was already deeply invested in this, and promised me that he will do what he can, at a ‘personal level’, since this is not something that can be done from the professional end of the company we were both working for. That was understandable!

He suggested that he would activate an ‘asset’ in Douala, a well connected travel agent, who would prepare an onward flight ticket from Douala to Lagos. However, since I didn’t have an entry visa or even a transit visa, and there was no way to do that now, that part was something we would have to improvise, according to the situation. His last words over the phone were particularly unsettling;

“Be careful my friend! Remember, without a visa you cannot enter Douala officially, and that means you can’t leave the Douala airport. So once you have landed, give me a call and hide somewhere so no one can spot you. Do not, under any circumstances, come near the immigration area. You don’t want to end up in an African prison!”


I nodded in the affirmative and pondered over his last words, which seemed pretty serious. Just as I hung up the phone, the tall guy, who was also the guy with more industry between my two new partners, asked me to follow him to a corner of the airport building. He asked me for the agreed cash and for my passport, to which I flatly asked;

“Why do you need my passport?”

In most of Africa, and in many other countries, letting go of your cash without first receiving the services, was considered stupid. But letting go of your passport was considered insane. And letting go of both your cash and your passport, was probably considered suicidal. I know it from my own earlier experience in Lagos, but I’ll save that for another day.

But my new partner, Frank as he was called, explained to me that he will try and sneak into the Chief Immigration Officer’s office, and somehow get a stamp on my passport as an exit document, without which, I would be in trouble when I land in Douala.

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