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Moctar Bayor, West African refugee and freedom fighter

‘The man who [was supposed] to kill me was a military man. ... The plan was to kill me in my car.’

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Editor's note: First Person is a series of commentaries that gives voice to those not commonly heard in Atlanta media.

While in his native country of Togo, Moctar Bayor was a leader in the Union Force for Change, an underground movement that challenged then-dictator Gnassingbé Eyadema. Before becoming involved with the UFC, he was a doctor. During an attack on his village, Bayor was warned by one of his former patients that the government was planning to kill him. He fled to Ghana, where he stayed for eight years. Bayor came to Atlanta in 2001 and since then has worked for MedShare International, a nonprofit organization that collects surplus medical supplies from hospitals and redistributes them to developing countries. Bayor says his work is a source of "great joy, because I know I am helping a lot of people."

The main reason we got involved [in the UFC] was because there was no liberty in the country. There was a dictatorship, and no one was doing anything to change it. Any changes we wanted, [Eyadema] refused – any liberty of expression, or anything that happens in a normal democracy.

All of this began when there was the wind of democracy flying over Africa in 1990. Before that, I was part of an underground movement trying to push change for my country. Because of the false sense of democracy, we came out of the underground to express our views about freedom, and we were identified by the then-government that was controlling the country. One of the main reasons we went against them was because we were all highly educated people in this particular movement. Everyone was publicizing that now you can speak freely. The government did not want us to do this because it would open the eyes of the other people.

One of my main activities was to go to different parts of the country and talk about democracy. I told people that one person was not better than another person and everyone deserves the same rights.

The man who [was supposed] to kill me was a military man who I had treated in the past. He came two times, to tell me that [the government] had been monitoring me and watching my every move. The plan was to kill me in my car. He told me to never use my car, and if I had to go out, make sure I went with someone else. They did not know that he knew me.

The Ghana government accepted Togo refugees, and I went to register at the United Nations Development Programme office. They discovered I was a doctor, and they asked me to work as a doctor for them. There were about 43,000 refugees, and I was the only doctor among them.

The U.N. committee for refugees told me I should leave West Africa and go to Europe or another Western country, because I was still not secure. We were next-door neighbors to Togo. They told me to go [to Australia, America or Canada].

I was able to bring some [family] members, as well as my wife [to the United States], but I was not able to bring all of them. Some more have come over since then, but others are still there.

I have seven children, and they are all in the U.S. But when I was living in Ghana, I was taking care of several nieces and nephews as well, due to the political situation. They are still in Ghana. I am trying to bring them to the United States, but that has not happened.

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