Caricamento in corso
I racconti del Premio Energheia Africa Teller

Sour fate_Stephen Amin

acqua4_Africa Teller 2001/2002.

 

The scattered hills print a nice picture and a magnificent piece of art

that shows both the creativity and generosity of the master. The

valleys, trees, shrubs and landscapes constitute beautiful scenery that

prints an unforgettable picture. The beauty of the land is God’s given

gift to the Nuba people. This land and its rich environment shaped the

Nuba’s arts and culture.

At the rainy seasons, the scent of wild flowers mists the air, giving a

unique flavour of a luxurious countryside. The symphonic melodies

of birds keep ringing the ears every eve of summer. The lonely gets

comfort, the musician tunes and the artist inspirations; it is a paradise.

However, despite the master’s generosity at creation, this vast and

beautiful habitat is wretched to nothingness. The birds could no

longer remember their melodious symphony. The only songs that are

prevalent are wails and grooms. The paradise is lost; thus resulting in

massive exodus, where everyone became Moses. The promised land

is a collective will but a personal destination, which has no promise

of any given covenant, but a hope in the name of a promise to

accelerate survival, out of the social debris of human greed and

cruelty.

There is a narrow dusty road, which is rugged with an uneven surface

that made travelling unpleasant especially on bare feet. People have

to keep on evading the stony debris, thorns and the irritating small

contours that frequently punctuated the road’ s surface creating a

mess of the workmanship. There are no trails indicating that the road

is in use. However, it is a spectacle in itself in that it cut through a

scrubby area.

Three barefooted-teenage travellers-Kumi, Kacho and Kallo are the

only users this day. They have enough reasons to be apprehensive, as

they are crossing from one side of the war zone unarmed. After years

of being confined to the rebels’ side in the Nuba Mountains, they had

decided that it was time they sneak to the other side of the Mountains.

Each of them was deep in thought, wondering what will happen to the

village they had fled from.

They had left deep the night praying that they wouldn’t be caught by

the troops who patrolled the road leading to Kadugli town, in a bid to

deal any attack by the rebels. None of the three had told his family

what he had planned to do after nightfall. So each kept on trying the

reaction back in Kujur village, which they had left seven hours

earlier.

They left their families unaware of their trip. They feared their

families’ reaction when discovering their mysterious disappearance.

“…Definitely they will know where we are heading”, whispered

Kacho. “It is too late for them to trace us, whom do you think will

ever know which route we are taking”, said Kallo. “…Do not you

know that they can send radio messages to the villages on our way to

stop us”, complained Kacho. “… Do you think we are that stupid; we

will pass no village till we reach our destination. We are of no need of

food or water the rains have provided everything we need for

survival, from water, wild animals and leaves”, said Kallo. “Anyhow,

we might reach within a couple of days if we are able to walk both

day and night”, said Kumi who was deep in thought yet very keen in

the ongoing conversation.

Kumi’s heart is in both abodes, he is thinking about the past he left

and the future he is to meet. In his thoughts he is thinking hard to

reconcile both. It seemed to him very hard to understand whether

the past he left holds his future or the future he is to meet would

take him back to his past. He smiled and went on thinking how

Kachiri his fiancée would get annoyed after learning about his

journey to the North. He told her anyhow, and after all when he

returns he will bring to her all that is in her dreams. He will get for

her a colourful dress, white rubber shoe, red manicure, and a lot of

chewing gum! What else would she say when she will see him back,

putting a jeans trousers, sunglasses and a colourful shirt that is

tucked in his jeans, making him smart as ever he could be. What

else could his father and uncles say when they will see him play his

radio every evening. “…after all I will be back …”, Kumi smiled to

console himself.

Although he left Kujur a day before, yet he still feels home sick. He

could not forget the happiest times he spent there. He remembered

the rainy seasons and the times he used to go to the mountain’ s

peak in the evenings having a nice view of Kauda village that lies

between the gigantic mountains like an important king guarded by

mighty giants. In the mornings he runs towards the east with his

frail arms wide open trying to embrace the golden rays that seem to

hug the mountains’ peak.

The rainy season comes with her green garment spreading herself on

the whole plains. Kumi liked autumn most. It is here that Kumi had

much time to play, as all of the young boys go camping in the wild

plains, taking care of cattle. In autumn children in Kujur had much

fun, and plenty of food and milk. In the evenings they practice

wrestling and the winner, wins the best lady’s hand. Because of his

latest victory Kumi managed to win Kachiri’s heart.

Kumi is seventeen of age, the fourth born to his mother. They are

twenty-three in the family. His father married four wives, in which

his mother Guchinde is the eldest. His elder brother, Kuku died in

war. His second born sister escaped with her fiancée to Kadugli. This

happened after Kumi’s father quarrelled with Kaffi, about dowry.

Keni, his sister, found no other way but to escape to a place where

her father’s hand would not reach them. Keni’s husband is

hardworking, yet the Government soldiers who regularly raid their

village in a bid to deprive them of food looted all of their cattle.

When Kaffi met Keni’s parents to draw the dowry, all his cattle were

looted and the harvest of the last rainy season was burnt, and his

parents were abducted and taken to the “peace camp”. The news that

Kaffi gets from there is horrible, one person who escaped from there,

reported to him that, his parents are no longer staying together. His

mother is raped, and taken as a concubine by one of the soldiers. His

father is reported to have been working in the soldiers’ field, to earn

handful of sorghum to survive.

All these happened when Kaffi was fifteen of age. He explained all

these to his father-in law but all in vein. Kumi’s father is adamant; he

insists to get his six cows, three goats and thirty bowls of sorghum,

the price of Keni’s dowry .Kaffi worked for three years but could not

raise more than two cows and a goat. Kumi’s father intended to

marry Keni to another rich young man, thus Keni and Kaffi has no

other way but to flee as far as they could. They fled to Kadugli.

Kumi thought to himself that, for sure Keni and Kaffi might have

used this road. He could remember very well the time when his

father learnt about Keni and Kaffi’s escape. His father was mad,

cursing all.

Kumi is not worried about his father’s reaction. Once he did the

same and fled to Kakuma refugee camp in Northern Kenya. Yet it

was so hard for him to survive by the food provided by the camp

authority. That time he went to Kakuma in pursuit of greener

pastures and education. His mental picture of Kakuma, throughout

the three-hour flight trip is that of a huge city like the ones he had

seen in his English comprehension book. A city where food known

and yet to be known is provided. He saw Kakuma refugee camp as a

dream city where Manna and quail descend from the sky with a blink

of an eye. He did not consider the efforts required to attain good

results in school. He saw that going to a foreign land is the same as

changing new cloth. Those days Kumi saw that, for a new life to

start, all resources must be available to meet the new arising needs.

In his mind existed the idea that “new people = new resources”.

However, when he reached Lokichogio at the boarder, he saw

wonders. He saw the situation unbearable, the plain landscape is so

dry, and there are no scattered hills or trees. He saw neither farms

nor cows. In the evening he heard no drums.

At Kakuma camp, he kept wondering why are there so many

Sudanese and few from his village. He could not understand why so

many people accepting the hardships of the camp, while everything

needed for smooth survival is provided back at home. He still could

not comprehend why so many planes taking off from Lokichogio

airstrip, heading to Sudan yet few managed to reach the Nuba

Mountains. He could neither understand whether the Nuba

Mountains is part of Sudan or a different world.

Back at Kujur the only thing he is aware of is the fraternal bond in

the Liberation struggle with other peoples of Sudan like the Dinka

and the Funj in the Blue Nile. In his whole life at Kujur he has never

met people from Southern Sudan. In Kakuma he came to realise the

social bonds between him and the southern refugees. At least all

have the same cause, he later understood.

For him war is not his immediate cause. At least he has adjusted to

living with war fears. He could no more fear the explosions of air

dropped cartels dropped by the Government of Sudan’s Antonovs.

Several times he escaped their harm. He has lost unforgettable

friends and childhood companions. Ngatu his best friend died with

thirteen others at his eyesight. He will never forget the last glance of

life shining from Ngatu’s eyes before he breathed his last. The faint

smile, the shining eyes …”tell my parents that …I, I a. a. am harmed.

..” all these are fresh in his memory as if it is still happening before

his eyes.

Kakuma is a place of no charity and generosity.

This is something Kumi has realised a few hours after arrival.

No one offered him a glass of water even no one welcomed him.

He has to wait for three hours to obtain his ration card, which

seemed important as baptism to Christians, and initiation to him.

He could not understand why somebody has to produce a card to get

a cup of grain and a spoon of oil. For him food is as holy as life, and

it is not godly for somebody to control its usage. In the whole of his

life he has never lived with a controlled food budget. What he

harvests he enjoys. When he runs out of supply his friends will give

him free food. During the early raining seasons he goes hunting.

Even when hunting it does not matter whether he threw an arrow or

cast a stone, his share is there provided that he holds a part from the

hunted animal.

The first morning for him in Kakuma, Kumi came to learn that, his

freedom of movement is highly restricted. He is not allowed to move

anywhere beyond the camp. All that his eyes can view is the plain

desert stretching as far as the horizon.

The few days Kumi spent at Kakuma School were full of

expectations. The first day in class Kumi has to share books with

four others. Well, he told himself, for sure the four of us have just

arrived, no soon than later, the head-teacher will provide each with a

copy. He has no cloth to change; he walks to the class putting on the

rags he came with from Kujur. It seemed strange to him that each

pupil is putting-on different raiment. During the long break he was

expecting at least a handful of groundnuts for breakfast but no one

seemed to offer. After three weeks, he felt more desperate than ever.

The rays of hope for a better life dimmed with time. He fully

understood the meaning of hope. Hope to him means to worship an

idea, not any other idea, but that which is a creation of one’s own

dreams.

One morning, Kumi formed an idea and started worshipping it. The

new hope for him is in writing a letter to his father, he wrote:

 

From Kumi Ajabna Kodi

To Dear Kind father

I am not to write to you. I am not a good boy I am bad. I ran away to

Kakuma. But Kakuma is hell. Father I am very suffering. Send for me

some sesame, groundnuts, dry Okra, cow beans, and if possible send

for me a pair of trousers and a shirt. I need a pair of shoes, the shoes

I have are worn out. Tell uncle Kunda to send two Standard three

books. Father I know you love me, but if you truly forgive me. Send

for me this thing. I repeat I am very suffering. I need your help father.

Greet mama and Keni. Tell little Kuku not to come. Kakuma camp is

very suffering, no food or books. No shoes or cloth. No money or

love. But I still have some love for you. Please forgive me and love me

more. Send these items with Musa Ngatu.

Your suffering son,

21/July/ 1998

 

It took Kumi one full month and six days, before he got a letter

from his dad. He spent most of this time thinking about the items to

be sent. The hope for a better life lies with the arrival of his father’s

parcel. He kept waiting everyday at the camp’s gate, like the

Israelites waiting Moses at mount Sinai. He worshiped the hope of

his father’ s intervention to make better his life in the camp. The

expected parcel seemed to him an expected Messiah with a new

covenant.

It is a revelation day, Kumi saw Musa Ngatu alighting from the

packed van like angel Gabriel ascending to deliver his revelation to

the Arabian prophet. He was standing alone. He does not want any

to witness the New Hope prevailing. Musa Ngatu seems to have

many luggage. Kumi kept wondering, which of those bags are his,

the green bag or the white. No, it should not be that small, he told

himself. My father can’t send me such small parcels. My father

knows very well that I am in hell he consoled himself. After few

minutes he went straight to meet Musa Ngatu. “Hi, Hi uncle Musa”,

Kumi shouted as he jumped to embrace uncle Musa. “I hope you

brought it”, he said anxiously. What? Asked Musa. “The parcels”,

returned Kumi hurriedly. “ Ah, well you mean the letter from your

dad. Yes, I have it, but wait till we reach”. “Please uncle let me read

it now”. “Why the hurry”, asked Musa. “No uncle I need to make a

decision right now”.

Musa went to one of the bags and opened one of the pockets. He

searched for a few seconds then removed his a dirty letter. The letter

is small as Kumi’s heart. Kumi’s heart went racing, sweating

heavily, he snatched the letter. With shivering hands, he opened it.

His lips quivered. He read loudly.

 

From Ajabna Kodi

To Kumi,

Worm greetings. I am angry and at the same time sad that you

escaped to Kakuma refugee camp. You spoiled my dignity by

undertaking such a wicked act. What is missing in my home?

Everything is there. I have nothing to send you. If you are suffering,

return home at once. I have sent 80,000 Sudanese pounds for your

return. Take it from uncle Musa if you are interested in coming back.

If not I have nothing to do more than that. I repeat come back at once.

Ajabna Kodi

26/August/1998

 

Kumi’s eyes went wet, his heart burnt with grief. He felt a bitter thing

going down his throat. He felt choked. He gave a look at uncle Musa

who raised his hand and placed it on his shoulder. Do not cry my son,

he said. Kumi said nothing, bowed his head and left his uncle

standing alone in the bus station.

Kumi was never seen that day. He walked the whole afternoon towards

the boarder. He reached Lokichogio at dawn the following day. His

heart is struggling hard to forget the past. He left everything he had in

the camp, his friends, his rags and his precious ration card. He left

everything that could make him remember Kakuma camp. He is not

sad to return home but indeed sad for leaving home three months ago.

The hope for the future lies in embracing the past. To go home and

build his future from the materials he left in the past. Returning to the

past is a good anchor to sail towards the future. To go back and use the

materials needed for the Nuba to make a good life, to continue

liberation to insure a prosperous future.

Kumi came to realise that peace is never granted. He became

convinced that, peace is an internal conviction achieved like any other

human value, such as happiness, wealth and the likes. To him, the Nuba

Mountains is an Alter where sacrifices are made, in the plea for justice

and better life. He understood that being a refugee is like becoming an

apostate from the village’s conviction of justice and liberation.

Becoming a refugee is depriving his people the sacrifice needed for

attaining justice. He should go back, therefore, to continue the struggle

for liberation, no one else but the Nuba are eligible to liberate

themselves. Thus Kumi returned home the way he left, he made no

announcement and nobody knew he is back. He knelt to kiss the

ground, his face shone with determination.

“I think we should stop to have some rest”, cried Kallo. “Well, this is a

place of no rest; you know we are not so far from the Government of

Sudan garrison. If they get us here they will have no mercy on us. God

forbids falling in their hands”, Kacho protested. “My friend, do not

think bad. Let us have few minutes’ rest; after all we have crossed the

most dangerous parts”, insisted Kallo. Then let us rest for ten minutes.

“… Not more, …remember”, called out Kacho.

The three boys sat under a huge tree. They uttered no words, each

facing an opposite direction to monitor any approaching danger. Ten

minutes passed like a decade. The prevailing silence made the three

little hearts go racing. To them tranquillity is so fearful, they have never

tasted peace in their lives. Every moment of silence accelerates their

fears of the unknown. Silence means life has stopped. Kumi seems to

be the most scared of all. His fear of the unknown grew with the

sudden flapping of birds flying away from a tree a hundred yards away.

Being in the wilderness for most of his life made him learn that when

birds suddenly fly away indicates a presence of an intruder. The boys

gave no attention to the birds flapping sound. Kumi stood up; became

more attentive, and he saw them. Five people putting on green clothes

that made it difficult for him to identify from the wild grass covering

the almost naked plain. He understood what they meant and what they

are intending to do. Before he could alert his companions, an explosive

sound broke the silence. Tat tat went the bullet. Kallo and Kacho

collapsed unconscious. Kumi could not comprehend what is happening,

he found himself running alone.

He managed to run a few meters away. He was trapped. He could not

resist. He surrendered. He was tied with a rope by one soldier and led

to the garrison. Along the way Kumi was beaten and insulted by the

soldiers. They nicknamed him ‘young rebel’. On reaching the garrison,

Kumi saw many young and old Nuba working in the fields. They

looked at him, but none talked to him. In their eyes he could see fear

and depression. They looked tired and exhausted. Their frail bodies

bear witness of their intimate fears. They fear the soldiers. In the

garrison he saw many young women, it appeared to him so strange, all

are pregnant.

“Where is your gun?” Queried the young, slim soldier with beards

covering his face, making him look like the phantom of death. His eyes

shone with fierce like a devil demanding a believer’s soul. Before

answering, Kumi felt a hard object knocking his back. He collapsed.

But none come to his aid. He fell unconscious. The first thing that came

to his ear after regaining conscious was that, “…he looks innocent, …but

who knows he might be the commander of the rebels”. Anyway “We

have to make him cough all the mysteries of his life”, a voice said

followed by laughter .

Kumi stayed in the barracks for nine days. The first three days were full

of terror; he was tortured day and night. He was placed in a pit covered

with an iron sheet. He could neither sit comfortably nor sleep. You have

to confess that you are a rebel, till then we will be able to release you,

the diabolic looking soldier told him.

Kumi was given boiled sorghum grains cooked with sand. It made him

have constant stomach pains. He has to defecate in his cell. He

understood very well that in both cases he is dead. Whether he lies to

the fierce soldiers and confesses that he is a rebel, or to tell the truth

that he is a mere civilian, trying to escape to Kadugli to buy wedding

garments for his fiancée, will not help. He is a Nuba and that is enough

for him to be depicted a rebel.

Three days after his arrest, Kumi was taken out of the pit and placed in

the peace camp. Every morning he is to join the others in cultivating the

fields. Failing to cultivate means losing the day’s meal. The peace camp

is not different from Kakuma refugee camp. The only difference is that,

there are no ration cards; however, one’s labour is the card for the day’s

meal. In Kakuma, different nationalities and tribes lived together, yet in

the peace camp mostly Nuba are present. In Kakuma refugee camp

freedom to visit friends, make friends and talk to friends is granted; yet

in the peace camp none is allowed to utter a word to fellow prisoner. Not

like Kakuma, the peace camp is not a modem prison, but a slave den.

Ninety days passed since Kumi was taken prisoner but it looked to him

like nine centuries. He lost weight dramatically. His eyes became wider

with despair. Every evening he spent in the fields made him remember

his friends in Kujur. He could see Lumun Mountains like giants calling

at him. He decided to escape. However, the men in green are guarding

them with much attention. Kumi looked angrily at the five soldiers who

patrol the gateway to the mountains and said:

Why are you enslaving us

Why are you not letting us go free,

You call this civilisation

But if civilisation learns about how you misuse her name

How shameful she might be.

Kumi viewed the guards as gatekeepers to freedom. He could not see

any differences between the Nuba slaves at the peace camp and the

guards. The guards are indeed slaves of a greater slave lord. He felt

sorry for them. The guards seemed to him ignorant of what is

happening.

In a flash of a second Kumi made up his mind, he lastly comprehended

the price of freedom. He understood that life and freedom have a

complementary value. To live a good life one must be free, and to be

free after slavery is to pay dearly. Kumi became contend to pay any

price for freedom, he disposed his slim legs to the wind. “I am going

back home”, he cried in madness. The five soldiers saw him

approaching; they held their automatic rifles ready. Stop cried one of

the guards. Kumi saw the guard’s threat, as that of a blind. The guards

are freedom blind.

The guards fired continuously towards him, but for Kumi bullets are no

material to stop his freedom. He is determined to die than to be

enslaved. He wants to go home. He wants to embrace the golden rays

kissing the mountains’ peak of Kujur. He is running to see the dawn of

liberation and freedom dawning on the Nuba. It is a conf1ict of

conscience where dignity is bargained; whether to accept the hardship

and be free or to run away from hardship and be enslaved; it is a sour

fate. The soldiers shot fiercely at him. He felt weak. His legs could not

take him farther. He kept on running till he collapsed.

He fell down facing the Mountains. The golden rays of the sunset

turned the mountains’ peak a precious scene. However, he is unable to

embrace the golden rays on the other side. He felt sorry for himself. He

looked around; there is nobody to whom he can disclose his worries.

He looked up, lifted his feeble arms and cried out:

O God,

Bless this land.

Bless the Nuba.

Never stop these golden rays kissing our mountains.

They are our pride.

They are the Nuba’s hope for freedom.

Let us have victory.

Let us enjoy the way you have created us

With the entire environment that made our culture.

You are merciful.

O Lord

The same way this sun is setting,

let us endure the cruelty of the night,

to embrace the new dawn,

which holds freedom;

the dawn that perpetuate our identity.

It is our sour fate

O Lord

I am dying,

but the Nuba are not.

Protect them Lord.

I do not know how to call you,

but I call you Father,

the Vincent of the Nuba.

He smiled and breathed his last.