Men have fears. Men have tears. Mine were all too real. From pages of papers to stages of
theatres, the call of peace cries out. Did they know what they did? Did they know that when those blades slashed heads, they slashed hope? Did they know that when those bullets ricocheted past ears they deafened peace? Did they know that as those bats battered bodies they bruised love? They forgot it all and gave in to their demons. They became sons of anarchy in a bid to show that their tribes were superior. None was innocent. None guiltier than the other. We all sowed discord and reaped chaos. Our sins had found us out.
One month ago
I sat in the living room of my parents’ house watching the poll updates. John L. Baird had
done a great thing to invent this contraption the television. We soared from Mombasa to Kisumu, from Isiolo to Mandera receiving the latest news of the election outcome. I was interested in the results. Not that I had voted. I had just turned 18. In the next election, I would be eligible. Notwithstanding, I wasn’t enthusiastic about missing my favourite evening sitcoms for General Elections. I went outside to fetch the dried clothes as I waited for the tally.
I was barely done with the first line when my phone beeped. Text message. I saw the text. Ah, it was an old friend of mine from high school. We had served in the Christian Union together. I read the text and froze…Surely he didn’t mean…it must be some joke he’s playing. However, the tone of the message embodied no jest. The backlight of the phone began to dim out. I touched the green button and the screen lit up. I read the text again.
“Wajaka kuleni mavi!” (Eat shit you Luos)
I failed to understand his message. I would one month later. Screaming bullets and angry
neighbours would ensure that I understood it pretty well.
One month later
The men did not seem to stop shooting. I feared stray bullets. I feared pain. I feared death.
Then again, I preferred a stray bullet as opposed to a machete. A bullet’s kill would be swift. Machetes would involve too much blood and pain. I knew I was going to die today. I just did not know how. I wanted to know how.
Somehow in the back of my mind I wanted to run to the gate and get caught in the scrimmage. Maybe my death would appease them and they would stop shooting. Rather one dies in the family than three. Wendy and dad were somewhere in the house in a similar position as I was; flat on the ground.
I recalled the text my friend sent a month ago. It made sense now. Did he even know that I
wasn’t Luo? It didn’t matter. What was his tribe again? Did he hate me? I had never asked myself these questions. I had gone through Primary school and high school making friends with kids whose tribes I hardly knew of. And even if I did, it was never among the top 100 facts I had about them. There were forty-two of them for Pete’s sake! But suddenly, it mattered. Matt was Luo. Lucy was Kikuyu. Dennis was Kalenjin. Why did it matter? For all I cared, I would marry Lucy, do business with Dennis and take my kids to Matt’s school. I did not harbour resentment and as far as my memory would recall, neither did my friends. Well, save for the one that sent me that text. Was there more of them? There’s always a rotting fish among the pure ones. The revelation occurred to me. This was not our war, at least primarily. This was our parents’ war. This was a war of their generation. Their demons had escaped from their leashes and they were making the whole country pay dearly. Yet some in my generation were bent of continuing the trend.
The shooting stopped. Dad wasted no ounces of chance. He seemed to manage gaps of silence and peace very efficiently. He rushed to the bedroom and opened a suitcase. He
pulled out a drawer and emptied all the documents into the suitcase. Those were our birth certificates and passports. His actions gave me a tinge of hope. He was hopeful that we would live.
“Kids grab your things! We’re leaving!”
“Dad I wanted…”
“DON’T ARGUE WITH ME! I AM IN COMMAND HERE! PACK YOUR THINGS NOW!”
I ran to my room shaken by dad’s tone! He’d never shouted at me like that before. This wasn’t time for family feud, I figured. I was under instruction. I obeyed. Only what we
need. I grabbed mum’s laptop, the Playstation, a few t-shirts and my Bible and then stuffed them in my duffel bag. I grabbed the duffel bag and threw it in the car. Wendy followed suite. We got into the Subaru and abandoned the Nissan. I was beside myself with dread. What if they stop us? What if they shoot at the car? I was licked clean with fear. Yet I knew it was safer than staying here. Remaining here was to court death. I looked out the window and saw Rocky. She knew we were running away. She knew we were cowards and even bigger cowards to abandon her.
She turned away and ran. Her masters were saving their lives. She was doing the same. She ran into a hole in the fence. It was the last time I saw her. A second dog lost. I finished the thoughts in my mind that I tried to communicate to dad earlier on. Dad can we take Rocky with us?
Dad drove out of the Cul-de-sac to join the highway. Boundless courage or plain daredevil, I
didn’t know which he was. We neared the mob. He drove anyway, eyes fixed on the
windscreen. I imagined blood being cleaned by the wipers on that windscreen. It could be my blood. Paranoia had poisoned me.
We could see the mob up ahead. They had crowded the streets. Not violent. Murder curdled in their eyes. I prayed. He drove. I prayed harder. He drove faster. The mob looked at us and ignored us. Whatever jab of mercy had prevailed over them, we were grateful. We joined the by-pass after we got to the main highway. We made it safely to Karen. A surprised uncle, aunty and cousins saw the familiar navy blue Subaru Impreza enter their compound. They heard the story and gave thanks to God. Their relatives were safe. They were the lucky few. Not everyone shared the same story. Some waited for husbands who never returned. Their heads were delivered in bags. Some waited for children who never returned. Their bodies were joined with the ashes of razed churches. Some waited for mothers who never returned. Their carcasses were found, raped, battered with throats slit open. This was civil war. This was Kenya burning. This was a scene we would never forget. Not for pain or hurt or anger. But for peace, love and unity. Vote peacefully this 2012.
O God of all creation
Bless this our land and nation
Justice be our shield and defender
May we dwell in unity Peace and liberty
Plenty be found within our borders.
Let one and all arise
With hearts both strong and true
Service be our earnest endeavour
And our homeland of Kenya
Heritage of splendour
Firm may we stand to defend.
Let all with one accord
In common bond united
Build this our nation together
And the glory of Kenya
The fruit of our labour
Fill every heart with thanksgiving.