“Please don’t do this to me. I am begging you…”
Midega pleaded, down on her knees on the floor, tears streaming
from her swollen eyes. With her arms raised up in supplication, she
appeared very small and desperately hopeless.
Around her in the spacious living room, stood four men, her
brothers in law-her late husband’s flesh and blood, all staring her
down with enough hate to flood the world.
One of them held her daughter Minayo firmly by the upper arm.
The young child, traumatised by the sight of her unfriendly looking
Uncles, and the sight of her mother kneeling on the floor, kept
screaming uncontrollably. “Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!”
They had descended on the house like a bunch of thugs, armed with
crude weapons and brutal faces that radiated detestation and greed.
They were brothers united by one passion; Hate!
Midega had been in the bedroom preparing to retire for the day
when all hell broke loose. First she heard the crush of a door being
broken down, the thump reverberating through out the house. She
had rushed from the bedroom to the living room scared to death, but
intent on finding out what was happening.
Her eyes bulged in terror when she came face to face with her brutal
One of the men smacked her in the face with the palm of his hand.
She flew across the living room and banged her head against the
wall, slipping to the floor. A small bump welled up at the back of
her head, but she did not pass out despite the pain. The pure terror
of possible death kept her awake…
“Why are you doing this?” She asked trying to get back on her feet.
“How have I wronged you? Aren’t you my late husband’s brothers
who are supposed to protect me? Why are you attacking me?”
Alumi, the eldest brother, pushed her hard back down. “Stay on
She looked at him and actually felt the odium radiating from his
hostile face. She couldn’t believe this was actually happening. She
felt so alone and unprotected, and wished that her husband had been
alive to defend her and her daughter. But these people whom she
had known as close relatives for a long time, were now strangers.
All she could do now to safeguard her life was to do what they
She remained on her knees.
Alumi stared her down. “You have been a constant source of pain in
this family. You felt very proud that your husband had a good job
and this big house. Now he is dead, and you don’t belong here.
Let’s see you get back on your high horse!”
“That is not true…”
“Shut up! Don’t dare talk back to me, woman. Your days are over in
this family, you hear me? Over!Now take whatever you came with
and go back to your mother. Anything your husband bought belongs
to us, including his daughter…”
Please Alumi… Tafadhali… Don’t do this… Please… I beg you…”
She moaned, struggling to get back on her feet, and twice they
violently pushed her back. The other brothers jeered and called her
names. Finally with brute force, Alumi grabbed her by the hair and
pulled her to her feet. “You are not an old woman. Go get married
or something. You don’t belong here any more”. He said. “Get
The dark night had been rendered even darker by the constant
drizzle that was fast turning into rain. Alumi threw her out of the
house into this cold wet night. She fell screaming into a puddle of
rainwater. “Oh God! This is not happening… Please somebody
help!” She moaned, picking herself up and walking back towards
the house. But just as she got to the door, Alumi slammed it in her
face and locked it from inside. She desperately banged on it, still
begging to be let in, but they responded with deep throaty
laughter. Somewhere in the house, she could still hear her
daughter crying out.
Midega sat down her back against the door, and cried her heart out,
wishing for her husband to resurrect and protect her. She had lost
everything; her dear husband, her daughter, the house, the farm –
everything. Life had become useless. Every minute she was alive
was like a million years of pain. She just wanted to sit there forever
and let the comforting darkness of death take away the pain. But
the drama was not over.
Patrick, the gate Askari whom she had paid and trusted for years,
walked up to her and informed her that she would have to leave
the compound. She felt like she had been hit by a massive electric
She felt tired, defeated. One more shocking incident and she might
suffer a heart attack. She stood up and slowly, with the rain
pounding down on her, walked out of the compound through the
gate to nowhere…
The night was now pitch dark, the rain was coming down in thick
sheets that obliterated visibility. She didn’t know where she was
going but stumbled on blindly. She was wet and freezing.
Groping her way on the narrow pathways of Shibuli Village, in the
upcountry region of Western Kenya, Midega somehow found
herself in a neighbour’s compound. A dog began to bark fiercely,
but to her it sounded like kilometres away. She knocked on the
When it opened, she practically collapsed in the living room and
passed out, dripping water like a sponge…
That night, Midega got very sick with fever due to exposure. Her
neighbours tried to nurse her but she got worse. She became delirious
and cried uncontrollably, calling out Jack’s name. In the morning the
fever was gone. But she looked pale and unstable. The neighbours got
worried that she might become a burden, so they gave her fresh
clothes and sent her away. She had nowhere to go, no home, no
She wandered in Shibuli village looking haggard and lost. People who
knew her, even very close friends were now avoiding her.
She ended up by the riverbank where she sat by the rushing water,
crying her heart out. She cried for hours on end and when she was
done, her eyes were bloodshot and swollen. To her left was a shack
made out of twigs and leaves. During her first days of marriage to Jack,
he had told her story behind that shack. That some time ago, a man
whom the village had suspected of being a sorcerer had been banished
as a result of the numerous death that had occurred in the village. Since
no one could tie the death directly to him, they could not totally be sure
of his guilt. But all the same, they banished him. He came to the river
and put up the shack where he lived until he died. His only companion
had been a large white cat. After he died, no one ever saw the cat again.
Rumours had it that he had died of disease while seated on a stone by
the river. His body had toppled into the water and washed away in the
As night began to fall, Midega went to check out the shack. It was
ruined with large gaping holes. But it would do as shelter for now
before she figured out what to do next. She gathered some thick
leaves and set out to repair her new temporary home. She also made
out a bed of twigs and soft leaves.
Late that night with the first pangs of hunger beginning to bite,
Midega sneaked back to the village market. There were bad fruits and
vegetables strewn all over. She set about collecting the best she could
under the moonlight and carried her loot back to the shack by the
river. The market became her source of food.
Days turned into weeks. Weeks into months. And she grew lonely,
dirty and sick. Nobody came to see her.
The village had forgotten all about her existence. And daily, as she lay
on her makeshift mattress of dry leaves, all that kept her alive was the
thought of one-day seeing her daughter again.
The saga begun when her husband who worked for the United Nations
in Nairobi, flew out of the country on a working mission in Iraq. The
war had just ended with the Americans successfully dislodging the
Saddam Hussein regime from power. But the consequences of that war
were now beginning to emerge. The country had practically been
destroyed. People were desperate for basic services like water, food,
shelter, electricity, medical attention and so on. The United Nation
began to step in with plans to ship massive food and medical supplies
to avert an impending humanitarian disaster.
Midega’s husband, Jack, was deployed to the UN building in
Baghdad as an operations and Logistics officer. He would be away
from his family for some time, but the good thing was that every
fortnight, he flew home on a Friday, stayed over the weekend and left
with the first flight on Monday morning.
It was two months into his new posting when disaster struck. A
massive bomb exploded in Baghdad, ripping through the UN building
and killing hundreds of people including the UN Chief in Iraq.
Several Kenyans, including Jack were reported killed, but only one
body was retrieved from the rubble. The Kenyan consul in Baghdad
tried in vain to obtain information leading to the recovery of the other
two bodies but in vain.
Two weeks later, two empty caskets and one body were brought home
for burial. Jack’s body was never found and so in accordance with
Luhya community customs, his casket was filled with banana tree
husks and a burial ceremony was conducted in his farm in Shibuli
village Western Kenya.
Several months after this funeral, Jack flew into the country aboard
a Kenya Airways plane from Pakistan very much alive. From the
airport in Nairobi, he travelled directly to his Shibuli farm where he
not only shocked the people, who saw him, but was shocked at the
people he saw as well.
From the moment he walked into the village in Shibuli, Jack knew
that something was wrong. The first people to see him ran away
screaming. Shortly thereafter people begun to gather in-groups
whispering in shock and trailing him at a distance. And when he got
to his farm, the Guard at the gate just stood there dumbfounded with
his mouth wide open, staring as if he had seen a ghost.
In the house, Jack found all his five brothers seated in the living
room having tea and swapping stories. He smiled broadly, happy to
be back home and expecting them to shake his hand as a welcome
gesture. When they looked up and saw him, some spilled the hot tea
on themselves while others just gaped. When he spoke and moved
closer to them, they moved away as if he was a dangerous animal.
Puzzled out of his mind, he took his bags to the bedroom expecting
to find his wife. She wasn’t there. Instead the bedroom was a mess
of clothes and things he didn’t remember seeing before. He rushed
to his daughter’s bedroom. All her toys were gone. Instead, there
were two more beds and more clothes everywhere.
He rushed back to his bedroom to check on the chest of drawers that
held some of his most important documents and money. To his
shock, all the drawers had been broken into.
He rushed out to the living room just at the same time his daughter,
Minayo, was walking through the door from kindergarten. When
she saw him, she practically flew into his arms shouting “Daddy!
She was shedding tears as she desperately clung on to him. There
was so much tension in the house you could cut with a knife.
Jack asked his daughter what the matter was, and where her
Mummy had gone, and she screamed some more. The brothers
looked worried and shaky so much that they couldn’t move. They
just stood there…
Jack put down her daughter and asked her again, patiently. She
explained amid sobs that her uncles had beat up mummy and chased
Jack was enraged. He didn’t need to ask them because they all
looked guilty and afraid. He felt as if an eighteen-wheel truck had
hit him. Tears rolled down his cheeks as he sought to know more
from his daughter. But she could not only tell him much, and so he
walked out and went to question Patrick the guard. Despite his fear
and shock, the guard found enough courage to tell him everything
that had transpired in the hope of redeeming his own misdeeds. Jack
ran all the way to the riverbank, crying. He held his daughter by the
hand and they both ran as if their very lives depended on it. When
he got to the shack by the river, he plonked down on his knees and
cried even more, begging his wife to forgive him for all that had
happened. He found her asleep on a bunch of leaves and twigs, with
a strange big white cat by her side… She looked dirty, dishevelled,
skinny and very sick. His daughter, Minayo, also cried at the sight
of her mother, and their passionate wails woke up Midega who
could only manage to open her eyes and stare as if she was seeing a
ghost. She was too weak to cry at the sight of a man she had thought
dead, and a daughter she had thought she would never see again.
As the tears came in silent torrents, Midega managed to utter only
three words: “Please… hold me…”
Jack took Midega to hospital and stayed by her side until she
recovered. Then he explained what had transpired in Iraq. That
while his UN superiors in Baghdad thought he had died in the
explosion, he and a colleague had in fact been kidnapped by
unknown Muslim militants while working near the Pakistani border
and kept hostage for months. When the militants lost interest and
released them, he had caught the first UN charter plane out of
Pakistan back home.
He took his wife and daughter back to the farm where he had a new
guard called Sylvester and an extra security man to guard the home.
His brothers were banished, never to set foot at the home again. And
Midega brought home with her, a new member of the family… the
strange big white cat…