By Maurine Otor (Kenya)
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This is for my country Kenya,
For the people of Kenya,
For all who love Kenya,
All about Kenya.
At the moment,
I have tears in my heart,
My eyes dry and hurt,
Can’t bear my arm’s cut,
A thousand times I spat,
Gore that choked my throat,
My intestines in spurt,
Rush which are not.
Could it be no more?
That chance I stand on,
For me to go home?
For I now know,
My own I got no.
Here in despair,
To myself no air,
For sure not fair
Who he does care!
Mend on me this tear,
Your much let’s share.
My all you break,
That much you take,
All now I make,
Is the smile I fake.
You know I need
Oh! now I plead
You stop this deed,
Just once do heed.
My Kenya , you bleed,
Bleed, bleed, bleed!
There have been gunshots and sharpening of machetes for three days now. The stench filling our crowded room is too much. Whispers are scary but I dread the deathly silence the most. Each time I hear heavy boots patrolling the estate and the quietness gives no comfort at all. A peep through the half-broken window showcases dead bodies sprawled in deathly poses. The soil is sticky red from innocent blood. Black tanned corpses are sweltering and puffed-up like balloons. I am scared, oh no! We are scared. All of us in this room, taking turns to peep through the window, see for ourselves. Some are too shaken to dare look out. The stench of rotten bodies, roast flesh and spilt drying blood is enough to jolt them from the sight. ”Nyamchom” has never been this plenty but now I swear I’d rather be a vegetarian. We are all in a state of vacillation between survival and fate. We saw it in movies and heard of it in stories. But now we live it.
It is nothing but a normal venture of our daily-hood, televisions and radios can only be sneaked for us to get abreast of happenings in other parts of the country. But we do not like it at all. All it carries is more depressing than the nauseating poop and pee stench filling our hell-hole. But who dares to puke? Hahaha! There is nothing to vomit unless one wants to risk his intestines yak! That might be grosser than seeing the man being sent back to the flames he was escaping. A whole family has been set a blaze or an IDP filled church has been set on fire. Elsewhere, women are being raped and men sodomized. We should actually anticipate our turn. Faces are solemn and pleading. Eyes are sunken. The mood in this country, which always knew peace and hosted refugees, is gloomy today. If our hearts were loud, their doldrums would hang on every ear to a never forgettable day. We may not be able to think straight when all this stops. It is too graphic. I hope it could stop once and for all.
Though never forgotten, emotions are intangible. You can never comprehend terror until you are in the same situation. Even in equal states, still we apprehend in our own individual ways. Maybe a psychic could tell. But this is the uniqueness God created us with. It is the weakness that makes some of us hurt others, even without realizing it. It is the source of all enmity in our society. The rot of our morals come from this indifference. That is why I shed another’s blood without a slight flinch in my heart, with just my menacing smile of mischief.
How crude my ways have become. Uncouth, to numbness. We all know it is too much, yet, we are all reluctant to do anything. Or, are we just unsure? Anciently, sack cloth and ashes would be a perfect recommendation. What will do for this a perfectly reconstructed modern society? When our sky is cleared of expectant dark rain clouds, and is overtaken by a fierce scorching sun? When the bare soil, hard baked and cracked, allows angry winds to blow away its nutrients instead of conserving it to feed dying nature?
Our hearts are troubled but we are too busy to follow the path of holy serenity. We watch helplessly as hope slips from our weak fingers. We plunge ourselves in unending depression. Each on his own, still too mean to share in agony, yet too proud to even weep for himself.
Never had it been seen, a large society like ours, in an unbroken chain of mourning. Bush fires sent wild animals from hunters’ hands, but the hunters were never consumed in the flames. How then would road fires roast innocent human flesh? In numbers, in turns, the essence of humanity being blazed down to ashes. It’s just unthinkable. None can surmise how painful it is to dry down to nothing. No witness can understand. All rejoinders and confessions are easily blown and scattered off by winds. But the last charred remains of breathing beings are lined up, piled, or crushed. This shall stain our hearts forever. It’s a nightmare we all want to wake up from but a reality none of us wish to accept. We wish that baby never clung to her mother at the hour of final consumption. It reminds us how much we desire to cling to loving arms at the end. It reminds us of the innocent who beseech love, affection and protection. But the bitter truth is how we are denied. Morals have been condemned to nothing, washed down the clogged drain. There is no refuge. No safe place. It’s all insecurity. Now, in this dungeon, - unless you have a better name for it - I am choking with pain and am trying hard to push away tears. But it is not easy when it is inevitable. Furthermore, you are amidst soft incoherent sobs.
I do not want to be the one to tell you these shocking stories, but someone has to. If I am the one, then so be it. Because, we can not allow atrocities like murder and gang rapes to go untold. Worst of all, being murdered and raped by those who are to be guarding and protecting us. The police. Or by those country defenders who have their dockets extended without warning or definition of extent. What a terrible humiliation to be raped in front of your children. Your daughters raped in your presence. Sons, brothers, fathers sodomized as you are forced to watch. The country is murky, It is such a hard thing to come a cross a smile. Only a fake one, but, even that is a treasure in this time and state.
Everything is sordid. The chatter of unaware kids is met with sorry stances of ‘if only they knew.’ The only children who could be wondering and worried about what has happened to their warm comfy homes are those out in the scorching sun, trekking bare-foot to nowhere. The uncertain faces of their parents scare them and they cannot dare ask a question. Some cannot, however, stand for the un-ending silence. Their many questions are longer than the stretch of path they have walked since midnight when their sleep was interrupted by noises from the neighbors. Their parents are worn from a lack of adequate answers because they know not as well. I am not at all disappointed by these quizzing children. All I also wish for is someone to answer the same, but maybe correctly framed and not full of childhood naiveté. Like, ‘if it has to be, when will it stop?’ or, ‘are all those behind these heartless?’ Of course we need some sanity just to quell down the atrocities. I am tired of this hell-hole. I just want to die, never to see or hear again. Only then shall I stop feeling.
They say a man is coming from Canaan with a brain full of ‘Manna’. But wait. Oh boy! For how long will that kill the pangs in our bellies before it is all twisted and converted through confusing legislative chapters and clauses, a formula that only favors the suitable and can only be understood – still partially - by the learned friends, each with his own individual version.
You better not answer me because the goons are all ears and, it is your brother who raised the machete that sent you here, over your head. Don’t trust anyone. Don’t. Listen more and talk less but always remember never to sell your soul by your own mouth. We can easily forget that sumptuous rat roast with wild berries which we hunted for all day and shared as brothers. Those money raining copters have agents that creep in our midst stealthily to corrupt our acquaintances with bloody cash. Actually, no one ever knew how bloody money could be. Until those holy veins were completely drained and the earth flooded with the saving, healing blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. Or worse yet, until the money greedy Judas could take no more from coins and had to return them and hang himself.
Anger and bitterness has preyed upon us continually for days and a deep languor has succeeded in this passionate struggle. We are uncertain and over expectant of what next could take place. Tear drops from our eyes try hard to drown our hopes. If ever there was a time when the world needed a Messiah, I am certain this is it. Just once again but full of hope it would be the last, as I would never wish for such a corrosive quagmire to flood another generation. The hardest part of all this is seeing tears in a brother’s eyes and not being able to wipe them or offer simple comfort because you are biting your teeth hard to keep your cheeks dry. It’s intense pain all over.
Grinding and gnawing of teeth has caught up with us. Doom is spreading its’ wings and flapping them so fast and hard that all must flinch at the chilling cold it spreads. The hard dry ground is gaping in awe and wonder. The air is dry and choking. I am told that the Ozone is wasting down, it sure must be going so fast because I can feel the impact through every inch of my nerves. We are drifting swiftly from ice-age to sun-age.
You know that Annan, whose coming I talked about, is already here. I appreciate of course, what leaves me dumb-founded is if he will ever achieve anything for me or for them. I sure would smile to get out of here but would rather never know what I would be getting into next. Of course if it won’t favor me. Like sheltering at an IDP camp when ‘Hagueists’ delay determining my case, or are not trusted enough to inquest themselves. It’s not like I am a perpetual coward, but, my friends, aha!
There are things you would rather not know. It doesn’t hurt. Ignorance is the vice, but unknowing is implacable. The only impending problem is that the masters of my CPU are over speculative. Seeing brave boys hauling the railway line as though they will never need energy for a worthy cause ever. Ngai mwadhania, or should I say, Obon’go Nyakalaga because some might complain that I am becoming tribalist even in this crisis. Kale! Kale! I shall get nationalistic baambi Katonda Gwange!!
The only thing am sure of is that these youths forgot about drafting a will. Some from Kisumu have met the fangs of fate. Others came so close, dragging barbs and slipping off –Omosh of Kibich- olympiciously. What of our human rights Messiah who took it all on chains! Hallelujah! Kudos our unsung heroes. Just that there are no more temples to be built in three days. Once you are gone, you are deaded for G. There is no rebound on this. No legacy left behind unless you follow my handy advice. Some protocols from the late…..
Dear Boys and Girls,
I am in a state of distress my children. I am not sure if I will hold you together in my arms once again and be able to rejoice in your beautiful smiles shining on your radiant faces. I do not know if I ever will come out of here alive or, if I should use my still valid state of mind to drop you a note. I am of course afraid to call this a will as I can not even decide on the correct format to use. More to that, it sounds like a death spell sent upon a young law abiding citizen like me, for wanting that old useless mheshimiwa off the seat. Or for whichever reason these others have for being here.
You know, children, that was just my thought. Coz he might be having splendid reasons for sticking on. Though through my opinion, he has been there ever since. You know, most of us have seen these people since we were in diapers. We have chanted their slogans in our childhood ignorance. But never did they know that as we grew our inner eyes became keen and more alert for more than just the brain washing slogans. We have been looking out for substantial deliveries. It is no longer about who was there first. It is all about who can give what to the community. We matter more than anything else. We are the grains of our nation. That’s why we sing. That’s why we match. That’s why we crouch under the ground, away from the flying bullets and breaking buttons. We are the voices of our country, that’s why we hold the determinant cards. Each possesses a decision to give sane direction to our country.
No woe to these cards, my children. Your turn is coming when you must use it to speak for you. Not a machete, not a rungu, but this card. You shall never shy away from it. It is the democracy that rebels and guerilla’s sought. A legacy left for us. Protocols to adhere to. That can not be gunned down, burnt or slain now. That was the nationwide will. You can always remind your friends about it, my children. My heart, just like many hearts, I know are bleeding at this point. Weeping and sorrowing for our beloved land. We are pleading for peace and brotherhood.
I have not much to allocate to you, my children. Other than my wedding gown that needs a few fittings for you my daughters and daughters-in-law - it was an original fabric you can agree with me - my rusted certificates are there on the top shelf in our shanty. Of course I still can not overlook education though my only worry is whether you will manage to find them in the rabble our house has become. Had I written to you before the vandals came maybe we would have saved them, even put them on a nice frame to honor a learned friend. Oh my! Too bad. But not to worry, I am leaving you an abundance of Peace, Love and Unity.
Mummy, Mummy, Mummy
We are colonial gringos. But listen to me; we can not blame everything on that, my fiend. Before these people came, we governed ourselves. Regardless of how crude it might have been, that’s how we made sure that some order prevailed in our little primitive communities.
The problem comes when we are unable to let go of our hereditary leadership beliefs. Blood was shed to create this big family and now blood might be the source of destruction for its delicate fabric.
We then need a philosophic heir who will overlook tribalistic boundaries and steer free of corrupt deals. Such reforms are so incredible we are literally begging for them. His flood of supporters must be willing to take up his examples in whatever may. This means we must all be philosophically right and willing to change our ways. I am not splendid in character but I sure can discern when things aren’t right. For that, I can boast.
This comforts me with the assurance that I could never throw a so-called brother out in the muddy wet and cold darkness on an empty stomach. I would not rob him of his dignity turning him into a homeless begging pauper so as to guard my selfish desires. Our country is like a beautiful butterfly with its wings clipped; it writhes on the ground unable to enjoy the juicy garden flowers that surround it. It is drunk from their scent and aroma and can’t keep its soul from yearning for a taste from them. If only for a while. Or like scattered stars scared of reaching out to each other, we could dance in harmony. Instead, we are forced to hang out in distant solitude, longing for love and comfort. The warmth from our own throbbing hearts is not enough consolation for our desire for affection. Of course we are not machines. Come on country men; our nuclear fears instill the national treatment that treads upon us. We are enslaved and trapped to ourselves. We wish we could scream out our lungs in a call for help. Breaking off would be a relief, but with this selfishness, who knows!
Sincerely, there is so much need to check our labor laws. Whom do they protect? The employer, employee or the consumer? I read in some slavery stories that laws allowed run-a-ways to be captured and re-possessed. Was that human or inhuman? You tell me, to what extent would I swear to get into a 100% boiling pool to retrieve my employer’s car key just so he may not fire me? What does it matter anyway if I do not come out of the pool alive? Either way, my family would starve. But their love would never leave me if I can get back empty handed and not let them miss me forever. Could be our economic desperation has turned our bosses into gods. We forget ourselves and the potential in us and we work tooth and nail to protect other people’s interests. We recoil and refuse to pull out our intellectuality. We wish things to come easy, not knowing that we are following the roughest tracks just for peanuts. We cannot take personal risks and empower our capabilities. We have been jinxed into assuming inferiority. You make them billions a day and are incapable of saving a coin for yourself. Not ever once have your calculations ever come right and positive. Your budget is always in arrears, extending your strenuous hours in a hopeless wish just to add a few coins. Your bones ache and creak with pain. At only thirty, you look as though you have seen a century. The sun hits hard on you as you break stones at the construction site and, at night, the chilling cold leaves you numb by morning, protecting his wealth. No wonder your voice has become coarse, weak and distant. The last time you checked yourself in the mirror you sure could not recognize who was in front of you.
It was you, that chubby vibrant little boy. The one who bullied skinny and boney fellows - that enthusiastic little prince that everyone adored. Never once expected to be lost and aloof, distant with untold thoughts which can not be understood by anyone else. It was that brave and focused boy whose dreams everyone knew, admired and envied. Not a visionless illusionist who can not remember the meaning of his name. Where has that energy gone? Where is the bounce? You can turn back and pick yourself together. Letting be and staying there feeling sorry for yourself, assuming you are a loser, is utter nonsense. You can still be whom you were meant to be and get your purpose back if you try. Focus, lean close to the mirror and recognize yourself. It’s not over yet. Straighten up and walk out with your head high, repeating the world president’s words, ‘Yes we can’ until you get to where you had dropped off.
That is when we shall stop looking for places to point fingers as to why we became scoundrels who robbed, tricked and murdered innocents. We shall have found our worth and be in no more need for excuses. We would have no more room for being used. We shall be empowered and aim for the stars we adored in our child-hood. We would idle in the streets no more but be busy scrambling for endless opportunities.
That is the last of my dreams as I swelter in here. Though, I would like to share with you my secret discovery. This circumstance has not triggered only me to make references. I got hold of a cage-mates diary and this is what I could manage to retrieve.
There is so much anticipation and worry as we scramble into this small room. We all are trying to be as discrete as possible as we come in. Fear is written on all faces and traces of dry tears are not too scary a decoration, I suppose! Talking is almost automatically forbidden. All ears are tuned to the outside to keep abreast with the happenings. I am so scared. God come help us.
I woke up with a strange pain on my left shoulder, I definitely know why. My head is thumping so hard I can not get myself into proper concentration. I feel really lost.
I do not know why mobile phones are all over. Moral ethics warn us against lying, but with this gadget, you can’t help slipping off a small one. A thousand rumors have got in here, including one that the state house has been taken over by our soldiers. Coup de etat was only heard in my birth year umh! Could this be my death year? Another one that could have rendered us update-less was that safaricom had been seized and closed down.
Save my mobi-mouth Lord.
Nervousness can break you down and too bad if it sends you on a scratching spree. I can’t seem to settle down. Even my fingers itch. I think I am contagious coz many others have caught up with scratching as well. Tomorrow will be a big day and all our vital senses are alert. The declaration of this country’s fate will be made and all eyes and ears are on two big men. I wish I could cross my fingers but the itch Oops!
As we are waiting to sneak in a technician for our broken down T.V. a damn cell-phone rings and the news is, ‘they’ve signed it.’ Don’t ask what. Another has married the other or vice versa and these sorts of things come with signatures, certificates and a cup o coffee umh yummy! The political shared responsibility has been set on foot. We hug our fellow greasy dungeon-mates. Who cares about the stinking grime? All we wish for is safety and peace for each other.
We get ready to go out and ravage in the dust and rubble for the recovery of any family possessions.