First Published in 2014
Copyright © Gerald Malinga 2014
All rights reserved
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gerald Malinga was born on the 31 December 1983 in Toroma Mission Hospital, in the then Usuk county, to the late John Alfred Ocen and Margret Malinga. He went to Pioneer Primary School, Teso College Aloet, Ntinda View College, Bukedi College Kachonga and later to a tertiary institution for a Medical Laboratory Practitioner’s course.
Since coming out of school in 2009, he has never been formally employed; instead he has been an entrepreneur. After not realising sustainable income from his private laboratory, he set up a bathing sponge value addition enterprise in 2011 which, in addition to his laboratory earnings, has supported his family. He has also embarked on writing as a passion having been a former literature student at Teso College Aloet.
The Dead Man Roars is inspired by a collection of short stories the author has accumulated in a period of ten years from the time he left his literature class. Some of the stories depict what could have happened in the communities where the author grew up, even though some of them may have been peopled by fictional characters and possibly seventy-five per cent fiction surrounding the whole truth.
The author would not like his script to cause any strife in the society in any way. That is why he would like you to know that the settings in his book are purely fictional. No part of his book represents that area you could be living in and none of the names represents anyone you know or possibly you yourself.
History is likely to judge the author right because certain of the occurrences reflected in the narrative were real and should not be any cause for alarm as long as you and the author are aware that they are past and have been part of our history. Today the author sets them down to back up his script for no other reason than enriching his work.
We should all know that there have always been a lot of evil acts in our societies. Such acts include human sacrifice, massive theft, family negligence, sorcery, witchcraft, and superstitious beliefs – and also petty crimes that the author would have loved to highlight in a script. In the end, we should all seek permanent solutions to evils that keep on resurrecting in our societies.
Truth be told, the core of The Dead Man Roars is an account of what really happened somewhere a long time ago and the consequences of the witchcraft depicted therein are still affecting the perpetrators of the crime today. The rest is fiction surrounding the truth.
Read and find out what happened.
This book would not have been a success without support of one kind or another from a number of people.
Let me take this opportunity to thank the following persons: Dr Kikwabanga Isaiah Noah, Mr Andrew Alemu, Mr Kennneth Osako, Mr Joseph Omoding and lastly Mr Jeff Jeoffrey Oluka for not hesitating to support me financially. Africa needs people who think like you and who are aware that we act as one another’s stepping stone. When you raise someone today, it makes that person turn to lift you up when you stumble tomorrow.
To my editor, Mr Julius Ocwinyo, author of Fate of the Banished, I wish to say thank you so much for the good work done.
Lastly, I would like to thank Katakwi Catholic Charismatic Renewal Ministry and their healing and deliverance team leader, Mr Peter Enuu, for always helping me in prayer. It is because of you that today I have seen God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit in action. My success in coming up with this script has been because of the prayers in this team. Thank you so much and may God bless you all.
This book is dedicated to:
My wife Stella Apolot, my brother Gabriel Okulakou and my mother Margret Malinga, who have always honestly wished me well and encouraged me in every endeavour of my life.
Mummy, it was hard for you to raise me singlehanded since my father died when I was only six years old. There is no better way in which I can thank you except through promising to live up to the principles you expect to be reflected in the life of a focused person. It is because of you that today I see an African woman as a winner, because you have always told me that in times of hardship I should not stumble or despair but instead stand firm. I believe in being a winner because you raised me as a winner. That is why I cannot fail to identify with you in this masterpiece of mine. You are a winner because I am a winner and all hardworking African women have always become winners. As the saying goes, ‘When you educate a woman, you educate a nation.’ Thank you.
‘It’s bad news again for my family this time. I lost two of my children and their mother a decade ago, and I cannot afford to lose Ojok and Akello too. We must do something,’ Dibola recounted to his two brothers and one sister, Olum, Pokot and Atim.
‘Ehh, Dibola! Things have not been easy for me. Having been at the steering wheel of Papa’s transportation business, I have suffered setbacks and losses. Do you know what has been happening to me on my way to and from Labilatuk? On several occasions passengers have had to run away when the car suddenly stopped and, to everyone’s surprise, the dead one, the one we killed, appeared from nowhere, the body smelling and maggots dropping off it.It would then whisper, “You wanted riches, I also want to sit in the car”. All who smelt the stench and saw the corpse wrapped up in a shroud fled for their dear lives. On one occasion I had to run too. On this one occasion, everyone emerged almost at once with curiosity, calling out to me. They wanted to know what had happened. All I could say was that it was something strange that I didn’t understand.’
Pokot talked about his ordeal while the rest sank onto their seats in misery. They were inside the sitting room of their late father’s house. The iron-roofed structure measured ten by six metres and was based on an outdated architectural design. It was old, the roof rusty. Olum and Atim were shedding tears.
‘The dead one comes every night, stinking strongly, and wraps its body around me,’ Atim moaned.
‘“I am Johnny Johnny the dead one” are words that keep haunting my dreams,’ Olum said.
They continued sitting until late in the night. ‘I am afraid of sleeping alone inside the grass-thatched hut I used to share with Mama before she left us after disagreeing with the late papa Ikoja,’ Atim said.
‘You will come and sleep in the sitting room of the main house with my children Ojok and Akello,’ replied Dibola in a low tone.
‘Do you remember the ritual curse?’ asked Olum.
‘I don’t remember because I had to run away into the forest and by night fall I was in the shrine of Bombay the witch. I ripped open Johnny’s belly and cut out the intestines with the sharp knife I had and I ran away with them. Yes I had killed; I wanted to look tough. I, Dibola! I, Dibola! I, Dibola, son of the late Chief Ikoja, am free from jail but the bereaved Matilda has launched the worst attack on my life and the whole of our family. I am now more than a prisoner of African chemistry,’ Dibola remarked.
‘I got to know that the death of Papa, Chief Ikoja, and the rest of the grief had been attributed to the ritual curse that Matilda inflicted soon after Dibola gruesomely murdered Johnny.’
No one seemed to listen as Olum finished. Everyone was fast asleep on the floor of Dibola’s sitting room. No one wanted to move to their respective grass-thatched huts for fear of the dead one tormenting them in the night.
The torment was unbearable to Dibola for it had caused great suffering to his family. Awareness of the torment occupied his mind all night, during which he hardly slept. ‘I think I am now a coward. It now seems to be absolute nonsense the name by which Papa Ikoja used to call me, the chief bull of the Ikoja family, heir to the family inheritance.’ He paused. ‘I think being a coward is better because now I am in grief. Brave men do not grieve. This ritual curse, I remember very well, was caused by my late father’s ignorance, when he visited the witch of Toibong, called Bombay, the man purported by the locals to have been able to call down lightning on the enemies of his clients.’
He was fast asleep when the cocks started to crow.
‘Papa, Papa it’s already eleven o’ clock. Can’t you wake up to prepare yourself? Aunty Atim has already cooked breakfast,’ said Akello.
‘Eh, my daughter! You mean it’s already daybreak? Where is your brother, Ojok?’ Dibola asked.
‘He has gone to play with the children in the camp of Toibong,’ she replied. ‘Make sure you keep watch. Yesterday he was not feeling well. Don’t forget to give him those herbs in the pot at midday. They are sweet because they are mixed with honey and they are used to treat many ailments. They can even chase away evil spirits. My daughter, don’t forget the medicine. For now tell your aunty to take some bathwater for me in a bucket to the bath shelter. I have to prepare to receive ome important visitors who wrote to me that they would be arriving today by two o’clock in the afternoon.’
Later that day, Dibola was seated under the tarmarine tree behind the house when his daughter came running, then stopped. She panted for a few seconds before she spoke. ‘Papa, Papa, Papa!’ she said. ‘The visitors you have been waiting for have arrived.’
‘Ask the visitors to come here,’ Dibola instructed. ‘And do bring along some chairs for them to sit.’
Soon the visitors arrived where Dibola was seated. ‘Uncle Pembo, you are welcome,’ he enthused. ‘Long time! You last came here ten years ago for Papa Ikoja’s funeral. Thank you for coming with Mama Phoebe. I hope all is well. And maybe you have come with some good news.’
‘My son Dibola, thanks a lot,’ responded Uncle Pembo. ‘The journey has been hectic. The new rainy season is hardly a week old and the roads are already flooded. We had to be helped to cross for a small fee. Had we not parted with money we would not have managed to come, hence the reason for our delay. I could not think of going back because the spirit of your late father has been haunting me to come and share something with you and your brothers.’
The whole family reassembled at the main house inherited by Dibola as the heir. Olum, Dibola’s youngest brother, had been instructed to slaughter a he-goat to feed the long-lost relatives. As preparations went on in the makeshift kitchen with the help of Atim, the three young men, Dibola, Olum and Pokot joined in the conversation with the visitors. Atim tuned her ears into her uncle’s conversation. He uncle was talking about how his late brother’s spirit had been haunting him to come and share a very crucial issue with his sons and daughter. She left little Akello watching over the pot of stewing goat and sufuria of fresh cassava. The aroma that spread from the kitchen engulfed them, sharpening their appetite. ‘Make sure to alert me when there is a problem because our visitors should enjoy the meal,’ Atim instructed her niece.
Pembo said that the same dream had occurred two days apart, The second time he had sensed there was something wrong. He toldhis hosts that when he got back to sleep he heard a voice telling him to travel to Toibong and tell the sons to go and make peace with Matilda. ‘Death is soon striking again. Death is soon striking again’, the voice had warned. The night after, it had again spoken to him: ‘Make peace. Make peace, peace, peace …’ On and on until Mama Phoebe had woken him up and asked him what the problem was. She had informed him that he had been talking in his sleep for the past one week. When she lit the lamp they had realised that it was only three o’clock in the morning. ‘Something is strange, let us get back to sleep,’ I had remarked. ‘Conversing at night is not recommended in our tradition. The old folks say there are strange beings that capture people’s voices and take them to the demons, so that you lose your God-given ability to speak.’
Pembo said that when it was daybreak, he shared the story of the strange dreams he had been having over the past few days. That was when they decided to travel to Toibong.
The whole house was dead silent by the time uncle Pembo finished his story.
It was already meal time. Atim had been very swift in preparing the meal with little Akello. As they were eating, a lot was discussed.
‘You people have changed,’ Pembo said to Akello and Ojok. He continued, ‘Oh, I was about to forget to ask! Are these really the children I found here when I came for the burial of my brother? Where is their mother?’
‘It’s a long story, Uncle. To cut a long story short, these are not the children you found here. The ones you found here died in one night after a strange ghostly being choked them that night as seen by our mother, Nana. Their mother had died a month earlier than the two of them through an act of suicide,’ Dibola said.
‘It’s so sad! Now where is the mother of these ones?’ asked Uncle Pembo.
‘She ran away not long ago after we came back to Toibong because the torment became unbearable for her,’ Dibola replied. ‘Ojok had not yet been born by the time Chief Ikoja passed on and he looks a grown-up man of six years now. Eat, my grandson, so that you grow and become big like me,’ Pembo said. ‘Will my hair become white like yours when I become big like you? ’asked Ojok. ‘Yes, it will,’ Pembo replied.
‘Then I don’t want to grow big; I only want to study. Papa says he is taking me to Toibong Primary School at the beginning of next year to start Primary One. My friend Elkan told me Teacher Fimbo wants a story from every new pupil who reports to school. Will you tell me a story that I will tell my fellow pupils next year when I begin to study?’
‘Yes I will, but let’s first eat. I have a lot of stories to tell you. I will tell you at least one before I go back to my kinsmen,’ said Pembo.
‘It’s by God’s grace that you have come. We were discussing something that was similar to Matilda’s ritual curse yesterday and were not sure what to do,’ said Dibola. The dining area was being cleared of the plates and cups used during the meal.
‘My children, I did not get to know very much about what happened to someone who was alleged to have been murdered by the sons of this family,’ remarked Pembo. ‘At least I heard about Dibola being involved. However, my brother, Chief Ikoja, having been a great man of the land, managed to cover up the whole incident without compensating the bereaved family or taking measures that would have averted the catastrophic curse that has befallen this family.I have now come to help you in making peace. Still, one of you who knows about the whole ordeal will guide us so that we will know where to start from.’
‘It’s the ritual curse that caused that,’ Olum said. He told them that they had very little time left, for the voice kept on repeating: ‘Death is soon striking again…Death is soon striking again…’
Chief Ikoja called Dibola one morning to discuss a burning issue in a private place behind the main house. ‘My son, have you heard about the warriors? People from the places bordering the land of these warriors have dispersed to various places for safety. They are not more than one hundred kilometers from the land of Toibong. And in a month’s time these warriors would have raided our villages as well. All they are taking away from the people are animals and they are raiding on a massive scale. If you resist, they will kill you,’ he said.
‘What are we to do with our five hundred plus cattle?’ Dibola asked.
‘We should put up stiff resistance that will scare them away…I have a very good idea. Have you heard about Bombay, the chief witch of the land of Toibong?’ Chief Ikoja asked. Chief Ikoja then told his son that this man seemed to be the solution to the cattle raiders.
Many people who knew Bombay the witch praised him a lot. Chief Ikoja had heard that Bombay performed great wonders, that he could bring rain and then call upon lightning to instantly strike the enemies of his clients dead. He wanted Bombay to sell those magical powers to them for the protection of their animals and the entire family. He insisted that the sooner they saw him the better.
On an evening, two days later, they went to pay Bombay a visit. Bombay’s compound looked very strange, with a very thick thorny hedge surrounding. Within the compound there were ten grass-thatched huts; there were also trees from which herbs were extracted to treat all ailments in this world.
Visitors were not allowed to loiter around the compound. It was said that the gods were watching every intruder who went with bad intentions to visit Bombay.
As Chief Ikoja and his son were approaching Bombay’s shrine, a drum sounded – boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom! Immediately they stepped into the shrine, a man spoke out. He said that his gods always alerted him before anyone visited about the arrival of fresh entrants. He said he was Bombay, the powerful healer of the world who could heal all ailments and had solutions to all problems in this world. No one joked with Bombay because he could call upon lightning to rip up his enemies, reducing them to the size of chopped pieces of meat. ‘I am Bombay the man who can perform every wonder in this world. Bombay the African healer to barren women and sterile men; Bombay who restores men’s virility.’
Bombay ordered them to leave their shoes at the door and get in. ‘This place is sacred,’ he asserted. ‘We have to honour the gods because today you are leaving this place with a solution to your problem.’
All the ushers in Bombay’s shrine were women, whose breasts were covered with calabashes. Their private parts were covered with small pieces of cloth and a cloth made of sisal fibres covered their buttocks.
After Chief Ikoja and Dibola had settled in front of Bombay the first thing that struck their eyesight was a live snake that had wrapped itself around Bombay’s neck. The bald-headed and grim-faced witch doctor was bare-chested at that time and had on only a short pair of pants. ‘You are welcome,’ he told them. ‘I am Bombay the man who has travelled the world over, from Toibong to Kwarakwara, from Nigeria to Mombasa, Pemba, America, China and India to look for medicinal herbs so that my clients have solutions to their problems.’
The whole shrine was silent, intently listening to the one and only Bombay. A divination calabash was passed on to Bombay. It contained beads for foretelling events. Some aromatic leaves were burnt as incense to chase away the bad luck Chief Ikoja and Dibola had come with.
‘What are your names? What brings you people to me?’ asked Bombay.
‘I am Chief Ikoja, the head of the Bull clan of Toibong,’ Ikoja said. ‘And this is my son Dibola. I have come to you because I want to make him into a strong man to defend my clan when I die. I want him to be the chief bull of the Bull clan and my family, the heir to the family estate. I want him to learn how to call down lightening like you so that when the cattle rustlers come, he is able to strike them with lightning.’
‘Well, well, Chief Ikoja, the conditions are simple,’ responded Bombay. ‘Condition number one: I want you to look out for the ten biggest bulls in your kraal, bring them for the ritual that will initiate your son into what you want. This is because the gods need you to sacrifice something of this kind, a special sacrifice.
‘Condition number two: Let me read your palms because I might charge you a lot of cash and yet you cannot afford to pay.’
Chief Ikoja did as he was instructed.
‘Well, well,’ Bombay remarked, ‘you look to be the richest man in this land according to what I have read from the marks on your palms. Now I want you to bring one million shillings so that it can facilitate our work. The gods need special attention. Sometimes when they say they want blood from chickens, we buy for them chickens.
‘Condition number three: I want human blood, blood from the most precious and most highly esteemed person in your village. He should be educated; the gods want a clever person so that his soul can avert attacks by the raiders on Toibong. To demonstrate that your son is brave he should be the one to kill the person. And then he should bring me the evidence.’
‘Let me interrupt you a bit,’ Chief Ikoja said. ‘I am able to fulfil the first two conditions, but the third one maybe very difficult.’
‘Now, give one of your own children as a sacrifice,’ replied Bombay.
‘My own child?! Then let me try what you first said. However, I don’t know where to find a person to sacrifice,’ Chief Ikoja replied.
‘Eh-eh-eh, Papa! Do you remember Matilda’s son?’ said Dibola. ‘He is about to go to Ivory Tower University. I hear people who go there to study become clever like the white man himself.’
‘Have you heard what your son has said?’ Bombay asked. ‘He is already prepared to be the tough man in your home and among your kinsmen. Go! Go! Go! There is nothing I will do for you unless you have fulfilled the conditions I have given you. Remember not to look behind you when you are leaving my shrine, keep silent until you reach home. The secrets in this shrine should only be for the gods and me.’
They left the shrine shortly after. The place fell silent again, with only the sound of footsteps being heard as Chief Ikoja and Dibola headed towards the exit.
Toibong was a highly populated place in which people from many places had settled.It looked almost like an internally displaced people’s camp. People had migrated there as a result of being displaced by many past wars. It seemed to be the easiest place to gain access to high-level trade every Friday, a meeting point for over one hundred villages. It was located along a highway and almost every kind of business thrived as long as the founder was serious about it. The southern end of the market of Toibong was where the cattle were sold; other commodities were sold from other parts of the market. Toibong covered up to two squares kilometers, and grass-thatched huts were the most common form of shelter. As a result, the settlement took on the appearance of a kraal of houses. A few of the rich residents were able to construct permanent and semi-permanent iron-roofed houses. Within the market was a section called ‘parliament’; this was because it attracted people from all over Toibong, who met there to drink locally distilled and brewed alcohol called waragi or elorukende. Many other people, from all walks of life, went to Toibong to trade in cattle.
Most of the Toibong women had prospered through selling liquor in this so-called ‘parliament’, notably Naire and Matilda. The short, slightly chunky and happy-faced Naire was known for hiring smart young women, who sometimes had gyrating hips, to help with her work. Such young ladies would attract men interested in optical nutrition; some of the men would sometimes have quickies with the ‘easier’ among the lasses. This obviously gave Naire a high competitive advantage over her competitors.
Matilda had of late taken away most of her competitors’ customers by engaging her son to attract customers who would come to sip her waragi.
Two people were chatting way in the ‘parliament’. One said, ‘Is that the liquor of Matilda whose son is soon going to Ivory Tower University?’
Another man replied that he was indeed the one.
‘OK,’ replied the one who had inquired and they went on drinking.
‘Johnny, come let us plan how to sell this liquor very fast. Tomorrow being a market day, we should be leaving home early to sell one cow for your requirements. Your Ivory Tower University is the most expensive school, I hear. Though I understand that the universities in Europe are even more expensive.’ Matilda was speaking to Johnny, her son.
‘Mama, give me a glass and a drop of liquor in it. I will move to that corner and pretend to be drinking it so as to convince people that the liquor is very good,’ Johnny said.
He was given the glass of liquor and went off to wait for people who were coming to drink.
‘Seems you are enjoying your booze. Who is selling that liquor you are drinking?’ asked one man.
He replied that it was the lady on the left side of the ‘parliament’ and that he would find her there. ‘If you delay, you may miss the best liquor of the day,’ added Johnny, who was nineteen years old.
Johnny continued talking to himself. He was seated alone and claiming that the liquor he was sipping was of excellent quality while pretending to be drunk.
More customers kept coming as some argued about where to go.
‘I am going to Naire’s joint. If you become a regular customer, you will get a chance to get close to one of those nice girls,’ remarked one man.
His companion replied that only rich men could afford the services offered by Naire’s ladies. ‘Let’s ask this man where he got his liquor,’ the one man said to his friend. ‘Where did you buy your booze from?’ he asked Johnny.
Johnny told the man that he should go straight to the door on the left-hand side of the ‘parliament’. Matilda’s liquor was moving so fast that there was now only a little left.
Naire, on the other hand, was not selling so much of her liquor.She kept wondering why and murmuring to herself. ‘But why am I not selling today? I thought everyone would be enjoying my liquor because of my beautiful girls who give them company. I see some of them are coming for my girls but are not interested in my liquor.’
Matilda’s liquor got finished soon after and Johnny helped her to pack their empty jerry-cans. She said to her son that he had to be in the market quite early the following day so as to be able to snag the wealthier cattle dealers who would pay top dollar for the cow. ‘You need that money from the sale of that cow, because the money from the liquor hasn’t all been got. And some of the customers drank on credit.’
Mother and son departed from the busy ‘parliament’ as Naire was trying to speed up her sales. ,It was already eight o’clock in the evening when business started for her.
‘Have you heard, Papa? They were talking on the other side of the window about coming to the market very early in the morning to sell the cow for Johnny’s university requirements,’ said Dibola.
Chief Ikoja and Dibola went on to join other drinkers in silence. They sipped Naire’s liquor as though they were strangers who did not want to be noticed by anyone. They left as soon as Matilda and her son had left the ‘parliament’ of drinkers.
Dibola woke up at cockcrow and headed straight to where his father was sleeping. He knocked on the door and his father immediately woke up and then opened the door.
‘Good morning, Papa,’ he greeted.
‘Good morning, son. Are you ready to execute your plan? How are you going to execute it?’ his father asked.
‘Now Papa, this is how I plan to do it. I will move close to the kraal. Then when I see Johnny moving with his cow, I will open the gate of the kraal. Then I will drive the animals out to mix with the one Johnny is taking to the market. I will immediately raise the alarm and claim that a thief has come to steal the animals from the kraal. Immediately I will pounce on him with my sharp knife. Even if people come, we shall say he had come to steal our cattle from the kraal.’
Friday being a market day meant the big opportunity for making sales. People would set out for the market on Thursday night so as to start preparing for Friday early enough.
Dibola immediately moved to the kraal and waited for Johnny to arrive. Johnny’s home was just across the valley and the route that led to the market passed along one boundary of Chief Ikoja’s land and near the kraal of cattle.
‘There comes Johnny,’ Dibola murmured to himself. He had noticed that all along the people who had passed had moved in twos to threes. Johnny was, however, walking alone.
It was very easy for Dibola to identify Johnny when he got to within fifty meters in the morning moonlight because he was a criss-cross walking person with legs curved outwards like a lame person. Dibola opened the kraal and drove out the animals. The animals rushed mooing out of the kraal. Immediately, they joined the one cow Johnny was taking to the market to sell.
‘Thief! Thief! Thief!’ shouted Dibola to catch the attention of his brother Pokot, who was seventeen years old. Pokot jumped out of his bed with only his pajamas on and a heavy club in his hands. Other people who were hurrying to arrive early at the market pressed close to see what was happening.
‘I am not a thief!’ Johnny cried.
‘You are a thief!’ Dibola responded, whipping Johnny. ‘This man is a thief!’
‘It is barely six o’clock and someone is already breaking into a kraal to steal cattle. Let us teach this thief a lesson,’ one passerby said, before he picked up a heavy stone.
‘Don’t kill me! I am not a thief!’ Johnny pleaded. ‘Please, don’t kill me! I am not a thief!’
People had gathered and stones were raining from everywhere. Johnny could not do anything effective to fight for his life. He started bleeding profusely from the nose, eyes, ears, mouth and then dropped to the ground. His body moved slowly.
Dibola picked his sharp knife and slashed Johnny’s stomach open, and proceeded to rip out the intestine and thenrun with them.
‘Oi–och-oi- och!’ exclaimed everyone who witnessed the disemboweling.
Some of those going to the market who didn’t know that someone had been killed ran to the scene only to find that the whole episode was over. It was only Johnny’s body that was lying by the side of the road.
It was already daybreak. Everyone was trying to hurry to the market. However, one passerby called Mzee Okori expressed interest in checking the identity of the dead man. All of a sudden, he raised the alarm and began to mourn.‘Ouh-hoo! My sister’s son has suffered a terrible fate!’ Tears were rolling down his face. ‘Who did this act of outrage to our only hope, the hope of Ibore clan? Oh dear Lord! You should have let this boy live so that our people and kinsmen stand in to pay any debt or trouble he incurred. Oh what a total loss! Whoever did this will surely pay for it! Who did this? Who did this? Who did this?’
The onlookers replied that they didn’t know; that they had only happened upon a dead body lying by the roadside. He sat down beside the dead body, not knowing what next to do. All he could do was to continue mourning: ‘Oh, my nephew! He had promised that he would do so many good things for me when he finished university. Oh God! Why did you allow the only hope of the Ibore clan just to perish like this?’
The man decided not to proceed to the market now. Instead he went back home to inform his sister Matlida about the great misfortune that had befallen them.
He approached Matilda while mourning. He then told her that it was bad news that he was bearing: Johnny her son and their only hope had been killed and his body was lying beside the road near Chief Ikoja’s kraal.
‘What? What? What? Are you really telling me the truth? It must be someone else but not my only child! Oh he’s my only hope, my everything, my whole future, my life!’ Matilda wailed.
Matilda’s young brother, Kombosi, showed up and asked what the problem was.
All Matilda could say was: ‘I don’t believe my son Johnny is dead. I sent him to the market to sell the cow for his university requirements. No!No!’ She then yelled, ‘Go with your elder brother and confirm if truly that is Johnny who has been murdered. I pray you find that it’s someone else. Not my son, the one who was supposed to go to university.’
‘OK, my sister. I am going straightaway because I can see that you are restless. Mzee Okori let us go and I prove for myself,’ Kombosi said.
As Kombosi and Mzee Okori were approaching the scene of the murder they saw people leaving.
‘Whoever did such a thing deserves to be killed too,’ said one, disbelief written all over his face.
‘I do not want to reach there, because I will feel like dying myself. There is blood all over the body,’ said Mzee Okori to Kombosi.
‘Let me go over and see for myself so that I can go back and inform Matilda,’ said Kombosi. When he identified the body he felt like he had lost his mind. ‘Oh God! Why did you take away my nephew when he had promised me good things after becoming a doctor,’ Kombosi lamented. ‘Now I don’t know what is going to happen to Matilda. She will just die because she is not prepared to hear about this. Elder brother, let us go back and confirm to Matilda that her son is indeed dead.’
As they were approaching Matilda took one look at them and then straightaway asked Kombosi if it was true that her only son was the one who had been killed. Kombosi kept silent, with only tears flooding his eyes. He moved over, embraced Matilda, before he spoke. ‘We all do not know what God has in store for every one of us. Be brave, my sister.’
She asked,‘Are you really speaking the truth? I just want to die as well. I cannot live anymore because my only child, my only hope and my everything, has been killed. Killed by people who have vanished. My son Johnny, I just want to see your wasted life once more before I forget. I believe I will never forgive whoever has done this to you. I will go and consult the gods so that they will follow up those who did this to you.’
As she was approaching the place where her dead son lay, she tried to wriggle herself loose from her brothers. They, however, held her tight as she yelled: ‘What wrong did my son do to deserve this? Mzee Okori and Kombosi, just set me free so that I, too, can die! Let me die! Let me die! Let me die!’Matilda then plumped down on the ground and her brothers let her be. She went on weeping: ‘Oh, my son! Why did they rip out your stomach? What crime did you commit to deserve this? I will mourn your life here and after burial I will forever mourn my child. Mzee Okori and Kombosi, go and prepare for the burial of my son. She then went on to sing a dirge:
Johnny, my only son!
The day of your first cry
Was the day your father was forced
To go back to his Tanga land,
After toppling a dictator.
I would have called you an orphan.
I would not have called you an orphan,
Not sure of where you belonged in society.
A fatherless son!
Johnny, my only son!
When I was sick, you fetched for me water.
When I had no companion,
I realized there was a human being running around.
When I felt hopeless,
You showed me the sun
And the day would be bright.
When I was weeping
You stopped playing to sympathise with me.
When you asked where your father was,
Oh, I answered in my heart, but with a gaze!
A fatherless son!
Johnny, my only future!
Your daily growth was my assured tomorrow.
You worked in people’s shambas,
You fed me with your rewards.
Your uncles denied me land,
You threatened them that you didn’t grow downwards.
You performed well in class,
I saw there was a bright tomorrow.
When the sky peeped in the house,
You said, ‘Mama don’t worry.
I will soon become a doctor
and build for you a storeyed house.’
Oh, my confident son!
Oh, my fatherless son!
Later that day, word about the murdered boy went around the market..No one at the market had bothered to find out the identity of the boy because they had heard that he was a cattle thief who was being followed by the owners of the stolen cow he was taking to the market. The people in the market did not know that it was Matilda’s son who had been murdered.
It was assumed that the killers had come from a faraway land, that they had followed their culprit and had ended up catching up with him near Chief Ikoja’s home.
At Chief Ikoja’s home was a miserable-looking gathering that seemed to commiserate with the bereaved. Some of the people had been to the scene of the murder before in the absence of Matilda.
‘Let us go and console the bereaved mother,’ Chief Ikoja said.
At first, Pokot wanted to stay away but he changed his mind and joined his father, Atim and Olum, his younger siblings. Atim was fifteen and Olum thirteen years of age.
Chief Ikoja pulled his son Pokot aside, munched his teeth, screwed up his face and said in a low tone, ‘I know that you know what happened. You have to keep your mouth shut. Do not even let any of your younger siblings know anything about your brother who is not with us currently. I have sent him somewhere else.’
When they reached Matilda, who still sat hunched up beside her son’s body, Chief Ikoja said,‘Oh, my dear Matilda! What a pity about the tragedy that has befallen your family and the people of Toibong! We are equally mourning with you. May God Almighty give you the strength to overcome this sad moment.’
She replied that whoever her son’s killer was, they had inflicted a wound on her that was not likely to heal. ‘Even if these killers have disappeared and are nowhere to be found, they will one day pay for what they have done.’
The sun was so intense that whoever passed along the road could look on for only a few minutes. In addition to the heat, there were the flies, which Matilda kept on driving away with the help of leaves. Matilda had covered her dead son’s body with a piece of cloth that she had carried from home.
Chief Ikoja inquired from her if she was hungry and wanted to eat something. She replied that the pain in her heart could not allow her to eat and that she would only eat after burying her son. Matilda, fat, nimble in thinking and movement, kind and soft-spoken and always exultant at her son’s admission to Ivory Tower University had been reduced to despair. She looked dirty and exhausted.
Matilda’s brothers arrived as Chief Ikoja was leaving the scene.
Passersby could be heard murmuring their comments.
‘That is the man people killed because of stealing a cow. But the killers have just disappeared into thin air,’ said one of them.
‘Have you heard what they are saying?’ Mzee Okori said.
‘I sent my son to the market with the cow and all I hear is about his death. The cow is nowhere to be seen,’ Matilda said.
‘Does it mean it was a cow from home?’ Mzee Okori asked.
‘Yes, I had sent him to sell it for his university requirements. How did my son become a thief so that they ended up killing him? We have to investigate. If it means performing a traditional ritual to avenge the murder we will do it,’ she told her brothers.
Kombosi said that they had come to transport the dead body home.
‘No I am not leaving here until I have finished performing the ritual,’she replied. ‘What do we do in order to place the ritual curse?’ Mzee Okori asked.
Matilda replied that the same kind of incident happened in a village called Tumtum when they were young and Jogo the herbalist imposed the ritual curse to avenge the death of the people who were killed in his village. She only remembered that some parts of a dead person’s body would be cut out then mixed with a charm before being buried with the dead body.
‘I want to send you immediately to Jogo the herbalist for the procedure. Leave now. By night time you should have reached there. It is only twenty kilometres from here. Take this money. And do not forget to pick a chicken from home because he will ask for one.
‘When you reach Tumtum, just ask anyone. They will be able to direct you to where Jogo’s shrine is.’
They immediately embarked on the journey to Tumtum, leaving Matilda alone with her dead son. It was already night time when they reached Tumtum. Meanwhile Toibong was wrapped up in an ominous silence that evening. All that could be seen was the flames of kerosene lamps flickering in Chief Ikoja’s home.
Dibola was nowhere to be seen the whole of that day. He had rushed off to take the intestines to Bombay the witch.
‘I did as you said,’ he told Bombay in the shrine.
‘Have you brought the twenty head of cattle I asked for and the money?’ asked Bombay.
‘Yes, I have,’ Dibola replied.
‘What about the evidence that you carried out the sacrifice?’ asked the witch. ‘Yes, I have brought you the intestines of the dead one,’ replied Dibola.
‘Well, you have done an excellent job,’ replied Bombay.
The shrine ushers brought in three calabashes. In one calabash were put the intestines and in the second one the money. The third one was meant for collecting the blood that would trickle out of each animal that would be stabbed during the initiation ceremony.
‘Dibola, you are here at the right time. Night time is the best. Now take off all that you have on. I want you to be totally naked during the initiation,’ Bombay commanded and Dibola obeyed. The ushers were also ordered to undress and then given instructions to be followed by Bombay. ‘I am staying behind in the shrine but these three ushers will accompany you to where the animals you have brought are. Take this knife with you and make sure you look for apart of the animals that you can pierce so that blood can trickle out. Make sure you collect the blood in the calabash. Do that with all the animals so that their blood is mixed in one calabash. Let the calabash not fill up before you have done that with all the animals. After filling the calabash you will be bathed with the blood by these ladies. You will come back to the shrine after that ritual. Remember not to look behind you when leaving the shrine. Also do not look behind you after the ritual bath when coming back to the shrine. Go, go now! One lady should carry the knife, one should carry the calabash and one should carry the lamp. Dibola, you should follow the lady carrying the lamp.’
The usher at the head of the line carried the lamp. She was followed by Dibola and the other two ushers fell in behind Dibola.
There was a lot of up-and-down movement with the animals. As a result it took them up to two hours to finish the procedure of piercing and collecting the blood in the calabash.
‘Kneel down,’ the usher carrying the calabash with the blood commanded. A herb was added to the collected blood and stirred in. The ushers then started pouring it over Dibola’s naked body while kneading it. Dibola noticed something when he opened his eyes and his heart started pounding wildly. The legs of the three ushers had taken on the appearance of a cow’s legs, hooves and all, while their bodies remained human.
One of the ushers realised that he had noticed the transformation and assured him, ‘Be brave. We are here to turn you into that man who can command lightning to strike your enemy. Since you have trusted us, just watch because we shall not harm you.’
He kept silent as the ushers went on with the ritual.
‘Now get up. We are going back to the shrine,’ said another usher.
This time he noticed a strange phenomenon as he was walking back to the shrine. Coffins had been set up on their ends on both sides of the pathBy the time he reached the shrine, his eyes, which had seemed to be closed, widened with shock. Bombay had transformed into something scary. Though his lower body was normal and dressed in pajamas, the upper part had turned into a giant, human-sized cobra. ‘Welcome my son,’ he addressed Dibola. ‘When you are here you have to be brave because your eyes have now been opened to see the spirits of this world. You will not yet be able to call down lightning until you have washed yourself in that river near Toibong. You must do this before cockcrow. If daylight catches you before you bathe, you will lose your senses.
‘And remember the following: Take this stick with you and the moment you intend to call down lightning, make sure you have it raised up…Communicate to the gods during the nights prior to the war so that they are ready to listen to your command when you call on them….Don’t sleep with your wife during the period when you expect to execute that duty…Take this ash and use it to bathe yourself in the stream. With the balance of the ash, you can bathe whoever is willing to join your company. When they pick stones to throw at the cattle raiders, they will explode, killing any raiders around.
‘Take this talisman together with the stick. Both are talismans because they have magic powers. This round object will imbue the stick with power. When it is not present on the stick, the stick will not work.
‘Lastly, the name of the god of rain and thunder is Besul. He will start dropping rain as soon as you shout “Besul, bring rain and thunder”, with your stick raised and the talisman in your pocket. If you are commanding a following of your men, then they will have to follow what you say and your actions. For as long as everything has been followed, lightning will come down from the sky direct to strike your enemies.
‘Leave this place now. In case you lose your way, helpers will turn up to guide you. Don’t put your clothes back on until you have bathed yourself in the stream. Respond to only one question: The one about where you are headed. Even then, say simply that you are going to the stream. Now run and don’t look behind you,’ Bombay concluded.
Dibola ran with all his might. He regretted why he had returned to Bombay. Soon he lost his bearings. All he could see in the night was activity in Bombay’s banana plantation. ‘Are these real people?’ he asked himself, in a murmur. ‘These seem not to be real people. These are dead people. I see coffins.’
At the far end of the banana plantation, the road disappeared. I n front of him was a totally dark forest. He stopped, then remembered the instructions forbidding him from turning back. He noticed a coffin on the ground that was opening. A corpse wrapped in a shroud came out of the coffin – the head had no flesh, the skull was hollow.
‘Where are you going?’ the corpse asked him.
‘I am going to the stream,’ he replied.
‘Enter the forest,’ said the corpse.
Dibola did as instructed by the corpse. He ran without stopping.
There was only one road in the forest. Somewhere along the way he could hear strange sounds like those of animals, and sometimes those of human babies crying.
At another spot along the road he saw a wall. A big snake emerged from nowhere and asked him where he was going.
He replied, ‘I am going to the stream.’
The snake, ‘Go through that wall.’
He moved close to the wall and touched it. A force pulled him through the wall, and he found himself dropping into a pool of water. Somehow, before he was completely immersed in the water, he managed to place his belongings on the dry land bordering it. Then he bathed himself as instructed.
He felt like he had lost his senses. ‘Where am I?’ he asked himself after bathing. He finally realised that the stream he was in was the one outside Toibong from which women used to fetch water.
It was hardly five minutes after he was done with bathing that he heard the footsteps of persons moving back to the camp in Toibong. They were carrying hoes and were headed back to the camp, one at a time. He remembered a rumor people had been circulating within Toibong about Bombay using his magic powers to summon people to go and work unconsciously in his banana plantation. The rumour also claimed that he sometimes used dead people to carry out work in his plantation at night and that by dawn they would be back in their graves – silent and dead again. In the morning anyone who would have worked in Bombay’s shamba unconsciously would wake up very tired, with dirty legs.
Dibola continued on his journey back home. Before long, he was back inside his room sleeping.
‘Kombosi! Kombosi, wake up!’ said Mzee Okori.
‘Is it already five o’clock in the morning? Jogo the herbalist said we would have to wake him up as early as five o’clock so that he can helps us with what we need. By six o’clock we should be on our way back to Toibong to join our sister Matilda,’ Kombosi said.
Mzee Okori replied that it was already five o’clock and that the cocks were crowing. They got up immediately and headed for the hut where Jogo slept. They knocked on the door three times.
‘Wait. I am still dressing up,’ Jogo called out.
They waited for him. Five minutes later the door opened.
‘Good morning, my dear sons,’ Jogo greeted.
‘Good morning,’ Mzee Okori and Kombosi both replied.
‘Let us go straight to the other hut where I always host my visitors,’ said Jogo.
Jogo bade them sit on the floor of the grass-thatched hut. The hut looked like a shrine though it did not contain what one would expect to find in a shrine. ‘My sons, thank you once more for coming,’ Jogo said. ‘I could not do anything for you yesterday because you arrived late. And since you had travelled from far, I wanted you to have a proper rest…I heard one of you say something…But first of all, remind me about your names because I need to be able to identify you properly.’
‘I am Mzee Okori and this here is my brother called Kombosi,’ replied Mzee Okori.
‘Will you tell me your problem afresh because I did not understand it well when you arrived?’Jogo requested.
Mzee Okori cleared his throat and said, ‘Yesterday morning our nephew was killed on the way to the market. He was going to sell a cow that would have fetched for him money meant to buy his university requirements. He was stabbed dead with a knife and some of his internal organs removed.’
‘We want you to help us avenge the death of our nephew. He was the only son to my sister Matilda and the only hope of Ibore clan. He had passed highly and been accepted at Ivory Tower University to train as a doctor,’ added Kombosi. ‘Do you know the killers?’ asked Jogo.
‘No, we don’t know the killers,’ they both responded.
‘If you knew the killers, you would simply have gone to the village chiefs and they would have been brought to justice.’ Then Jogo paused briefly. ‘What I am going to teach you,’ he continued, ‘is how to inflict a ritual curse. What will happen is that the killers will be disturbed relentlessly by your nephew’s spirit and they will come looking for you to seek reconciliation.
‘I did not want to do this because I don’t believe I have long to live here. I am now eighty years old and yet you would be expected to come back to me so I can call off the ritual curse incase the killers sought forgiveness. I no longer teach people what to do because they will make many members of the killers’ family die, and most would die a miserable death. If you direct the ritual curse to make them commit suicide, they will do so. If you desire that the killers be scared by the dead one, the corpse will appear to them whenever they are with other people. In case they become very rich, they will definitely become poverty-stricken with time.’
Mzee Okori and Kombosi kept silent as Jogo spoke. Then Jogo asked them what kind of torment they wanted inflicted on the killers.
‘We want them to suffer all the different types of torment. Please teach us the entire procedure,’ they both responded.
‘Give me the chicken you have brought,’ ordered Jogo, and they did so. ‘I don’t need that money because you are currently grieving. You need that money for the burial of your nephew.’
He brought out the red and black beads and placed them on a winnower. Immediately after, he slaughtered the chicken, sprinkled its blood on the beads. Jogo then picked up one small gourd and cut open the narrower end, into which he inserted the beads.
He shook the gourd, and then proceeded to murmur something. He did the same thing twice.
He washed the outside of the gourd with ritual water. Then he spoke. ‘I was communicating to the gods of vengeance to accept every command you make while shaking this gourd,’ he announced. ‘Now take this bottle. What you see inside it is ritual water. Add a bit of the ritual water to the water you intend to wash your nephew’s body with. Cut out the body parts I have mentioned on this paper and tie them together. Sprinkle the ritual water on them, then bury them beside the body. Or simply put them inside the body through the open belly. If you allow the dead body to first rot before inserting those things, it will appear before the killers in that state. You could even allow maggots to show up on the body. A body covered in maggots will definitely torment the killers to the point where they will get down on their knees and beg for forgiveness. Do not bury your nephew in a coffin, and make sure you hand over that gourd to your nephew’s mother. And don’t forget to pass on to her the instructions I have just given you.
‘After she has grown old and about to leave this life, she can hand over that gourd to any of you or anyone else she intends to be the custodian of the ritual curse. This curse should be aimed at those most loved by the killers so that the killers can feel the pain of being lonely. I think I have finished with you. ‘Then he continued, ‘Something I had forgotten to tell you. We have already started receiving refugees from villages and towns neighboring the land of nomads who have turned into cattle raiders.’
Mzee Okori replied, ‘That is news to us because we had only heard that there were raiders. We didn’t know that people had come to Tumtum to take refuge,’ ‘What I want to draw your attention to is first the need to tell the bereaved mother to wait until after the confusion caused by the raiders is over,’ said Jogo. ‘After peace has been restored, she can start effecting the instructions I have given. As of now, I want you to first cleanse the body. You are going to be the last people I will provide this service to. I will never pass this knowledge on to anyone else because it is dangerous. Even if one followed the procedure I described, if the ritual water is not used nothing will happen. Please greet for me the bereaved mother. Hurry up. I can see it is coming to seven o’clock in the morning.’
Mzee Okori and Kombosi set out on the journey back to Toibong with what they had been given.
When Mzee Okori and Kombosi were away, Matilda recollected the train of events from the time Johnny’s father, Haraka, had first met her.Haraka was a tall, light-skinned and well-built man serving inthe National Liberation Front Army. He was one of the soldiers from a foreign land who had toppled the tyrant who had insulted their president and had invaded their land with the intention to annex a part of it. The tyrant had exacted a toll on his own people, and under him extrajudicial killings had become rampant, many people had fled into exile, social services and essentials like salt had become inaccessible, and there had been total anarchy. Everyone therefore felt relieved when a foreign country came in to help with the removal of the dictator. After the dictator’s army was engaged during the 1979 invasion of the country and the dictator himself was ousted, resistance to the external force had reduced within a short time. Most of the dictator’s soldiers, who were overpowered, surrendered, and some went underground. The 50thbattalion of the National Liberation Front Army deployed some of its soldiers to guard Toibong, Haraka, Johnny’s father, was one of these soldiers.
During the war business in the camp boomed because people of all backgrounds had converged to Toibong from neighbouring villages. At that time Matilda helped her aunt with the sale of ajono, a beer brewed from fermented millet. One evening, when Matilda was fetching water from the local borehole pump, something happened. A man dressed in an army uniform stopped her and tried to engage her into a friendly talk. However, because it was dark and she was hurrying to pick the last jerry-can, she could not stop to respond to the soldier. Matilda tried to continue on her way but the man stopped her by force and wrestled her to the ground. She tried to raise the alarm but the man quickly sealed her mouth with his, tore off her knickers and raped her. After he was done he left her lying on the ground, helpless. She went back home crying but there was nothing she could do. ‘Aunty, I have been raped by a man wearing an army uniform,’ she cried.
‘I forgot to tell you not to go to the borehole alone,’ her aunt replied. ‘Many girls have been raped since those soldiers were brought to protect this camp. The camp elders have reported these people to the authorities but nothing has been done.’
It was four months after the rape that Matilda’s aunt noticed that there was something wrong with her niece. ‘What is happening with you?’ she asked Matilda. ‘Are you pregnant?’
Matilda didn’t know what to say.
When her aunt asked her who was responsible for the pregnancy, she responded, ‘Aunty, since that soldier raped me, I have never known anyone’. Her aunt asked, ‘Do you think you can remember that man? He must be made to help with the responsibility to look after the baby.’
Matilda replied that she couldn’t remember.
A stranger one day approached her during her sixth month of pregnancy. Everyone could now easily see that she was pregnant. The stranger asked her, ‘Do you know the person who made you pregnant?’
She answered that she didn’t know.
Then he said, ‘He is my friend. He says I should give you this money.’ He then pulled out a wad of notes and gave it to Matilda.
She hesitated and said that she first wanted to know the sender of the money. He replied that she would know him if she promised not to report him to anyone. He added that he was not willing to go back to his home country because of his child. Matilda replied that she would not report the matter to anyone.
‘Then come back tomorrow to this same place and at the same time.’
The following day, she was at the appointed place on time and the same man appeared.
‘Where is the father of my unborn child?’ she asked.
He looked at her in the eyes, then went down on his knees and said, ‘I am the one. Please forgive me for what I did to you. Have you forgiven me for what I did?’ he asked.
‘What is your name?’ she asked.
‘I am Haraka. OK! My full name is Haraka Johnny.’
She kept this little secret about the initiator of the pregnancy to herself. They kept on seeing each other regularly. Finally, they fell in love.
Eventually, Haraka introduced himself to Matilda’s aunt as the person responsible for the pregnancy. Matilda’s aunt felt releaved and happy at this admission. He also gave Matilda’s aunt money as a token of appreciation to her for taking care of Matilda who had been orphaned in childhood. Being a drunkard, the aunt got quite excited about this money and forgot about making any plans of committing her daughter to Haraka or deciding on the way forward.
It was now a year after the dictator’s ouster. There was relative peace as the leading politicians were bracing themselves for elections and the soldiers from the foreign land were being repatriated. An order was sent out requiring those who had wives to leave them behind. Haraka felt very sad about the prospect of leaving his sweetheart Matilda behind – and he had two more days to stay in the country. How he wished he could stay around until his baby was born!
He came around that evening to see Matilda. As they were chatting, he told her that an order had been issued requiring them to leave for their home country in two days’ time without fail.
‘We are under orders not to take any women with us. I don’t want you to worry. I will work hard and I will keep sending money to you for your upkeep and the baby,’ he ended.
‘What about coming to see us?’ she asked, anxious.
‘When I am able, I will.’ Then he paused, before continuing, ‘In case the baby turns out to be a girl, I want you to name her Haraka Maria, after my mother. In case it’s a boy, please promise me you will name him after me, Haraka Johnny... Now, let me go. Tomorrow I will pack all my belongings and I leave them with you so that when the baby is born, there should be decent enough bedding to ensure the baby is comfortable.’
Matilda waited for Haraka the following day, but all in vain. That same night she was transported ina donkey cart to the nearest village dispensary, five kilometers away, accompanied by her aunt. Hardly had she reached the dispensary when she gave birth to a baby boy.
The day before their scheduled departure, Haraka escaped from their army detach very early in the morning. He carried along the things he had promised Matilda. She was, however, nowhere to be seen.
A lady neighbour asked him whom he wanted to see.
‘I want to see Matilda,’ he replied.
‘She was taken to a nearby dispensary to give birth,’ she replied.
‘Please help me to keep these things because they are too heavy for me to carry along to the dispensary,’ he requested.
He set out for the dispensary and yet they were scheduled to leave in less than an hour’s time. From the roll call their commander noticed that Haraka was missing. The departing soldiers had piled all their belongings into the army truck and were set to leave. A friend who knew about Haraka’s commitments around Toibong went looking for him, only to be informed by Matilda’s lady neighbor about what had happened.
When the commander got to know of Haraka’s whereabouts, he ordered the truck to embark on the journey. He knew that the dispensary was located on the road they were preparing to follow.
Being the well-trained young soldier he was, Haraka ran fast. He was praying that his comrades and their commander should not catch up with him. He kept glancing backwards while running. ‘God, allow me only to see that baby. That is all I ask of you, God,’ he prayed.
As soon as he got close to the dispensary gate, the army lorry appeared. A whistle was blown and his comrades jumped down, commando-style, and headed towards him. At that moment Matilda was on her way to the bathroom, supported by her aunt. She saw Haraka looking frantically around. Matilda dropped her towel and dragged her weak frame towards Haraka.
Haraka’s comrades caught up with him as soon as she reached where he was.
He quickly asked while handing her money, ‘A boy or a girl?’
She replied that it was a baby boy, and that she would name him Haraka. At that moment Haraka was handcuffed and taken to the lorry, before he could say anything more.
Then one comrade told him, ‘Sio wa bibi ndio ome kuja kutafuta kwa inchi yii’ (It is not women you have come to look for in this country).
As he looked back constantly, a voice kept repeating: ‘I will name him Haraka Johnny-Haraka Johnny-Haraka Johnny.’
Matilda was in the midst of this recollection, with her lips repeatedly whispering her son’s name, when sympathisers from Toibong arrived. She was lying beside her son’s body, oblivious of the offensive odour it was already emitting.
The whole of Toibong got concerned when they heard about a bereaved woman who had sat roasting in the sun the whole day of the previous day. The second day had already started but she was still seated, mourning her only son in silence. Most of the people gathered in small groups under the trees. They were at least one hundred meters away to keep out of reach of the offensive smell.
‘It is Matilda in grief,’ they murmured. ‘We should see to it that we help her out of this tragedy. She might even be out of her mind by now because someone who is normal cannot sit silently in that kind of heat for two days.’
When they saw Matilda’s two brothers arriving in silence, they stopped their conversation.
The chairman of the local area council approached the two brothers and said, ‘We are really sorry about what has happened to your family. I would like to inform you that we are mobilizing some money and whatever other things people are willing to contribute for the burial.’
The brothers then walked over to Matilda.
The chairman, on the other hand, went off to mobilize assistance from the many people who had come.
Chief Ikoja seemed to have been deliberating on some issues with the many people who had come from the camp when the appointed chairman of Toibong approached them with a book while holding money given by well-wishers. ‘If you will allow me to interrupt,’ he said. ‘It is really a shame for us in this village to just look on after a calamity of this magnitude has befallen one of us.’
However, one of those gathered remarked, ‘On the other hand, we are trying to organise for Johnny’s burial.’
Chief Ikoja asked what the problem was.
‘We are taking up a collection. And this is what the sympathisers have given so far,’ said the chairman.
Then another man said that they were trying to set up a burial committee to oversee the burial.
All of a sudden, everyone stopped whatever they had been doing. They all turned their attention to the spot where the deceased lay. Kombosi, who had been sent somewhere, had returned carrying long pieces of wood on a wooden wheel burrow, a jerry-can of water, a basin and something that looked like a makeshift tent. Sticks were planted around the spot, cordoning off the body. Matilda and Mzee Okori erected a platform made of sticks and placed the dead body on it.
‘Go and tell everyone that we are washing the body and dressing it afterwards,’ Matilda said to Kombosi.
A group of up to thirty people, led by Chief Ikoja, were intercepted by Kombosi, ‘What is happening,’ asked Chief Ikoja. ‘We have seen an object that looks like a gourd and some strange thing. Do you people want to perform a ritual?’
‘Let us be patient,’ Kombosi replied. ‘The deceased’s body is being washed. If it were a ritual curse then it would not be bad because we do not know the killers and yet we are in grief and at a total loss.’
‘But, but,’ Chief Ikoja enquired, his eyes teary, ‘when is the burial? The body is beginning to smell and flies are all over the place.’
‘After washing and dressing the body,’ Kombosi answered, ‘we will leave it to lie in that makeshift tent until night time. We will then carry it to Matilda’s home at cockcrow.’
Chief Ikoja was speechless because he knew that those were activities concerning ritual cleansing and cursing of the culprits to make them accountable at a later date. Chief Ikoja asked, ‘Why don’t you bury today? When is the burial? I am once more asking because you have not answered my question.’
Kombosi said that the burial would be on the following day because the deceased’s mother was still mourning. He claimed that she had said that she would mourn her son for three days.
‘We need to co-operate with you as regards the organisation of the burial, ‘the chairman said.
‘Let us proceed to my home,’Chief Ikoja requested.
Meanwhile, at the spot where the deceased lay the ritual was going on. Almost all the instructions that Jogo had given were carried out to the latter. The only part left out was the shaking of the gourd, which was meant to be done at a later date.
The dead body lay on an improvised stretcher made out of two sticks and a small cut-out portion of a tent. It was wrapped in white bed sheets ready to be taken away when the right time arrived. Matilda sat in silence beside her dead son.
‘I am going home to organise the digging of the grave,’ Mzee Okori said.
‘It is OK,’ replied Matilda, ‘but please do come back to keep me company until when we are readyto take him home.’
Mzee Okori found that his brother had been waiting for him together with those mourners who were willing to dig the grave and erect tents that would provide shade to the mourners on the day of the burial.
Naire, Matilda’s principal competitor in the liquor-selling business, soon also arrived accompanied by about twenty Toibong women.
‘You have to be strong,’ some of the women consoled Matilda.
‘It is very sad what has happened,’ Naire said. ‘I remember just the other day your son was a healthy young man. And now this sad news!’ one of the women remarked.
Soon it was night time and the women built a log fire to keep themselves warm. They chatted away as they kept their bereaved friend company. Matilda slept off while the rest of the women kept awake. However, by midnight they had all fallen asleep.
No one apart from Matilda and her female friends were around when Mzee Okori and Kombosi came to take away the dead body. Johnny’s hut had been readied to receive his body. It was here that the body would liein state before finally being laid to rest in the already-dug grave.
During the funeral procession, Johnny’s uncle expressed the view that his nephew had been a genius and that the whole of Ibore clan had seen him as a source of hope since he had won a scholarship to train as a doctor. He would probably have been the first surgeon from his clan and the whole of Toibong had he not been murdered. That statement made everyone start wailing afresh. As for Matilda, she collapsed each time her late son’s would-have-been achievements, hopes and aspirations were mentioned.
Father Mapengo, a visiting Catholic priest who had come to lead the requiem Mass, proclaimed: ‘The truth is that Christ has been raised from death; this is a guarantee that those who sleep in death will also be raised. For just as death came by means of a man, the same way the rising from death comes by means of a man. For just as all people die because of their union with Adam, in the same way all will be raised to life because of their union with Christ. But each one will be raised in the right order; Christ, first of all…The last enemy to be defeated will be death. For the Scripture says, “God put all things under his feet”(1stCorinthians 15:20-27).’
At the end of the Mass, Johnny was buried. Everyone dispersed that day, leaving Matilda forever feeling empty and having nothing more to look forward to.