Identity crisis in Burundi (2014)

Leaving the Burundi was harder than I expected. The uniformed woman at passport control in the airport took my passport and informed me that she was going to have to confiscate it as it was clearly false.

She showed me the photograph in my passport.

"This is not you", she declared.

She spoke French with a thick Burundian accent. I told her that that photograph was very much one of me and that she was mistaken.

"I have been trained in facial bone structure recognition. I know that the man in this passport is not you. The bone structure of the man in this photograph is totally different. Why are you are traveling on a false passport?"

This was serious as I had no way proving that I was the man in the passport photograph. For a second or two, I was concerned that I might end up being arrested for travelling with a false passport.

She glared at me and told me to stay where I was.

I waited and watched as other passengers slipped through passport control unhindered. There was still plenty of time before the flight, so I just bided my time and did not make a fuss.

The women ignored me and in return, I ignored her. Over that years, I have learned that not reacting to this kind of provocation is the best strategy. I read a book and waited, keeping a eye on the time, knowing that I had a trump card up my sleeve.

An idea occurred to me. Perhaps I could give her the contact details of someone who could verify that I was the man in the passport. She was not impressed with my idea, until I produced a document that named one of my contacts in Bujumbura and showed his telephone number. He and I had met in a meeting. He knew who I was and would vouch for me.

As soon she realised that my contact was the Chief of Police of Burundi, she suddenly decided the the passport photograph did look like me and handed me back my passport with an exit stamp.

I had just enough time to catch my plane and set out on the long journey home.

#burundi #passport #identity #bujumbura #passportcontrol

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