The enemy within

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Last Wednesday I was on the run. I was running for my life as well as that of my family. In the back, I have constantly endeavored to flee from myself because there are times I demonstrated excessively deadly for myself. And on such occasions, I would forget myself, drown in women and work. Note women came first because without them I don’t know how my life would be like. As much as they’ve caused untold misery to my life, especially in these youthful days, they bring relief to me when I am too perilous to myself as well.

Last week was something different. My life was at stake and in order to protect it (I love it of late as it is getting better by day). For a man who has seen genuine tumult sometime recently, any little window to get away from a rehash is normally grasped. Watching individuals bite the dust in your face is a memory you keep in mind effortlessly particularly when their death is affected by their tribe, a thing nobody has control over.

I remember seeing some of my friends get butchered in cold blood by people we used to know. Neighbours. People we shared salt with. People we had stayed with for years, people we used to laugh with. Then one day, one monstrous day, they all of a sudden altered their opinions and promptly took us for foes. And boy, death is ugly. Nothing I have met that is revolting as such. Not even my landlord.

Blood spouted from these friends’ arteries to my face.  I watched them die. They looked at me with merciful eyes. At that time, maybe I betrayed them because I didn’t do a thing to rescue them. They all died a miserable death. Worst of all, in the hands of people they used to call friends. But since they were of a different tribe, they couldn’t stand a chance to live again.

Tied to a pole was I. Both hands tightly tied with a rope that cut through my wrists. My friends knelt down before me, a few metres away begging and pleading to be forgiven for things they had nil control over. I watched these three rough men torture them for three days.

In this abandoned hut in the village, no one would come to your rescue. Everywhere was lit with woes, fire, fracas, people running dearly for their lives, people wincing in pain, arrows flowing through the air, machetes busy slaughtering innocent human beings. The air was foul. The smell of fresh human blood lingered in it. The screams and the commotion too. All in the mix rent the air, and nothing was still. Not even the tree or the sand.

Everything shuddered at the drop of a machete on an innocent man. The birds retreated from their nests and flew to perch on safer grounds. The leaves bustled. Dogs didn’t bark. They were afraid too. Nothing was in its right spot.

I could hear all the upheaval outside. The atmosphere was tense and war ruled the hearts of men. Retaliation for obscure wrongs throbbed in the hands of men. Everyone carried what they could find and used it as weapons. Flints, pangas, knives, stones, twigs.

While others got busy with finding weapons to wage war with, others were running dearly for their lives. Others were fighting for their lives. This is where I belonged. The smell of blood, smoke from burnt bodies and houses, fear, cries and death, all were before my eyes and nose. And deep inside I knew my life was having the last kicks.

Have you ever been so scared that even saying the last prayers never escapes your mind? Thank God that I don’t piss when I get scared. I might be weak but not that extent. Before 2007, I had passed through tough life and been hardened by circumstances. Never had I had someone push a knife through my leg or arm. Or hold it on my face.

The memories of my friends and I fighting for our lives are too gory to stay with. Every time I hear the word war my skin twitches. War reminds me of camps, refugee camps. It also reminds me of hunger, misery, poverty, fear, broken bones- and most importantly, death.

There are days I see JJ and Kev looking at me with pleading eyes in my sleep. I see them trying to reach out for my hand, for my rescue.  And then they drown in death on my watch before the house is suddenly brought down by unknown people who want to enter. Their heads roll over the floor and the fountain of blood goes up and lands on my head.

That is what war is all about. That it can start anytime, there is no right time for war. It goes with it everyone on its trajectory.

The coward in me makes me run. And that is why I went to shags. At least, there, no one can come to hunt me from my hiding. If it happens, at least I will die on my own soil, my home. My people will know I died while at home blameless. They will know I was a decent young fellow who didn’t care for war.

 

A week has almost elapsed down here in shagz. The days have snuck past and the impulse to broaden this leave is massively seducing. Everything else feels native and alluring, giving this original touch with things. Unlike in the city, things are real. The food is real. People are too. The same with foodstuff and environment.

Meeting things first hand gives you so many ideas on what you could want your future to be like. Everything reminds you of the very special things you’ve been missing all along while you were deeply immersed in the mish-mash of the city life.

The simplicity of life here is mind-blowing. But for someone who has spent years in town, all simply looks like devastation, renunciation and destitution. The smiles are genuine and laughter echoes throughout the valleys of Kisii villages. Is it a sign of happiness? You can largely say so.

Both men and women are heavily built. Even many of them are dark skins (a thing slay queens would deeply hate), no one feels that a dark woman is not beautiful. Dark is elegance and there are beautiful women. The ones with virtuous, full bosoms with nipples pointed like the Daniel Alps. Skin colour doesn’t make anyone feel scammed by life or men for that matter because they love light skin maybe.

There is comfort in being born dark-skinned. It is deeply royal. The faces are shiny and you can detect vibrancy in the bodies below as people are healthy. People eat. And eat. And eat. There is no way one cannot gain that big body. Given that the foods found here are not highly influenced by modern fertilizers and other kinds of growth enhancers, their bodies are highly healthy.

People don’t hit hospitals at the knock of a headache. They use herbs. Furthermore, the only likely disease that one is likely to suffer from is malaria. On these sides, malaria is ruthless. Mosquitoes drink blood, forget the sucking. While doing it, they bring malaria with them. The only wonder is to as why they’re so thin even though they drink huge drips of blood.

In the past, I have been a casualty of malaria. Have you ever experienced a headache that makes you wish that if death knocked on your door you would hug it and tell it, “Please take me with you? Please. Don’t leave me with this headache. Please carry me with you.” Such earsplitting headache made me abhor life. I used to feel like someone was using an axe to cut my head into two slices.

 

I often wonder what drives a man to loathe another man. Or to suddenly dislike a person to an extent to raising a machete and truncating their heads. I wonder who gives them the moral authority to sanely or insanely decide that someone else’s life has to end, or that someone does not merit living anymore.

War is experienced all over the world. In most cases, it is prodded by politics. The thing that sends one into killing another person does not originate from without. For a man to lift a blade and wound somebody, for a man to torment somebody, for a man to lynch another individual, inside him rests a shrewd (evil) spirit already.

When such an evil spirit rests in a person, the possibility of him eruption is volatile. This latency will only need a small tuning for it to become alive.

At the point when huge human monstrosities occurred in Kenya in 2007, it was that detestable soul working inside the culprits of viciousness. Meaning that even if we walk around and pretend to be friends, there is an animal in us waiting to roar into life. Until that happens, a circumstance or a situation that triggers this animal, you’ll never know who is walking beside you.

At the heart of our existence as Kenyans, tribalism rests in our hearts. Customarily, it may not be showed consistently but rather amid such political circumstances it is vigorously clear in even individuals you never thought would be so tribal. It is such times that we paint our true colours not through words alone but also through massive action. It is the enemy within. Lying, pretending to be inactive.

I have learnt that tribalism will never end. It will only end if we start shedding off the sentimental feeling of entitlement, sycophancy, tribal attachments and superiority. When we tend to think that we’re superior to others, or that we’re the majority, therefore, we deserve a bigger national cake, then tribalism proliferates. No one wants to be trampled on. Emiliano Zapato’s I would rather die on my feet than on my knees begging becomes alive.

My biggest worry is how we will fight this ugly headed animal rearing its face in what used to be a peaceful country in the region. Do we have to run to our ancestral homes every time we’re having elections for fear of losing lives because the environment for savagery is ripe?

What happens in the case I’m married to a woman from a rival tribe? Does each of us run to our motherland and then reunite later? What of our children who will not bear any tribal label or leash on themselves?

This affliction has to stop. It has to come to a time when tribe won’t matter anymore because we’ve already suffered in the hands of the whites through racism and colonialism. Looks like it was not enough and we continue propagating it among ourselves-fighting for a worthless course.

Moi was the president for 27years. It is amusing that we hear that Baringo is one of the poorest counties in Kenya with people dying of hunger and violence every day.  Uhuru might be the president but not all people from his home yard in Gatundu have electricity. Many lead more than humble lives.

It is a fact that the people we fight for might never fight for us. They might have dreams of a better nation but not because they care about us, but themselves. They already made it in life. Their children never go out to fight or picket in the streets. Truth is, in this nation it is each man for himself.

Until we learn a lesson that we’re the ones who control the destiny of our nation and not the leaders, they will always control us. We must understand that for politicians and other political actors to be powerful, they must ensure that we remain manageable. Meaning that they wouldn’t want us to prosper and become their competitors. The lesser the competitors, the larger the steak.

The enemy is within us.

Where shall we go, we who wander in this wasteland in search of better selves?

 

Yours truly,

Mzangila Snr

 

 

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About Mzangila

Mentor, media consultant, photographer, editor, poet, writer, and counselor.

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