I wish now that we hadn’t got to talking about politics that day! If we hadn’t, I would not be haunted by that unexpected, sad story which I can prove or disapprove.
But the four of us were political science students from the University of Nairobi, and I presume shop talk was so inevitable. Yet, we’d kept off it through nyama choma and the drinks afterwards. Aluda had outlined his camping trip with enjoyment, and then Maina started a chat of the Otienos’ chances of winning Sandra Chebet. Sandra Chebet was the most beautiful lady in our class. And then I had to change the tête-à-tête into politics.
I didn’t mean to do it. But I’d had an extra Tusker and that always makes me feel analytical. At the same time I got an engrossed that we four resembles four of the major tribes in Kenya.
I am a luhya so I may say I represented the Luhyas. Samuel Maina, Dan Otieno and Gerald Aluda I may say they represented Kikuyus, Luos and Kalenjins respectively.
“Protective coloration, that is what it is,” I said. “How hard we pretend to be united ordinary good guys!”
Otieno looked at me, somehow aggravated by the interruption. “What are you talking about Bwire?”
”About us,” I answered. “What imitation of solid, contented citizens we put up! But to be honest we are not satisfied, you know-none of us are. We are brutally dissatisfied with the Democracy in this country, that’s why we spent most of the time figuring a way to end tribalism.”
“We all know that will never happen, my friend. This tribal thing is a disease that can’t be cured. Maybe it can be cured in your well dreamt imaginary Kenya” Aluda interrupted.
“I suppose the little matter of minority in Democracy has nothing to do with it?” Maina asked skeptically.
“In no doubt it has,” I admitted. “We all dreamt up of Non- tribal based Kenya before even we went to University to study politics, didn’t we? From back in childhood, even? It’s because we don’t feel safe and at home here.”
Otieno snorted. “We would feel a lot less at home on some of the countries like Burundi, Somalia, Congo and some of the Arab countries where democracy is less practiced.”
Then Fujo, the fifth not of our party, broke into a conversation. He had been sitting to a next table near us without a drink in his exceptional silent way, glooming, paying no attention to us.
He was a weird chap, in his clothing and appearance. We didn’t know him but you could tell the guy was somehow mentally disoriented. But in some ways the guy appeared normal, but somehow so dip involved in drugs and alcohol.
He told Otieno, “That has happened to me.”
“What happened to you?” Otieno asked.
“What you were implying. Ten years ago I saw how less of Democracy and more of tribalism can do.” Fujo answered
“You mean Post-Election Violence, What we nowadays call PEV? Mzae hiyotunajua,” Aluda blunted.
But Fujo was unsmiling. He murmured, “I’d have gone to Uganda to live there-If I’d known I was going to lose everything!”
Otieno, with a significant glimpse at Fujo’s empty table glittered at us and then asked blandly, “Come sit at our table and let’s hear about it.”
“Before you start what is your name,” Maina asked.
“You can all call me Fujo,” He answered.
“Please bring here one Tusker and one glass,” Aluda posed to the bar tender.
Fujo kept looking dully down at his now filled glass, turning it slowly in his hands as he talked. He paused at every few words.
“I was born on the 12th December in 1964 at around 12 noon. I don’t know if it’s the truth but that is what I was told by my mother.”
“You think the date might be incorrect,” I asked.
“You see, there is no written document showing I was born on that proclaimed date. So I’d to believe because there is no mother who can forget the date of birth of her child.”
“I agree with you,” Aluda interrupted.
“You should be having a name like Uhuru because your date of birth correlates the exact date Kenya became a Republic,” Maina said jokingly.
“Samuel you want everybody to be called Uhuru Kenyatta Muigai,” Otieno said cynically.
“Dan nawe, Samuel was just joking ama niaje Bwire?” asked Aluda.
“Off course,” I said. “Fujo please continue.”
“My names are Fujo Mtsimbiriri.”
“I guess you are a luhya?” I interrupted.
“Yes I am. I come from Tingolo if you know where it is.”
“I know the place,” I replied.
“Then why were you named Fujo? I guess it kind have some sort of a meaning,” Maina asked.
“I don’t know what it means. My grandfather who gave me that name died when I was seven years old. That’s why I didn’t have the chance of asking him why the name-Fujo.”
“Tell us what really happened to you” I said.
“It happened just after the 2007 election results were announced by Kivuitu. I will never forget that day. I was here in Nairobi with my wife, my daughter and my son. We used to live in Kariobangi in Huruma Estate.
“I got right to work on my new job; the job was to be done at night. I loved my wife and my two children, Wairimo and John,”
“Wait a minute, what do you mean by saying you’d a daughter named Wairimo?” Otieno interrupted.
”My wife was a kikuyu. Ann Njeri she was called, once a debutante from Kiambu. She was slender and lovely. She was fairly complexioned and delicately beautiful and sensitive feature. She was exquisitely feminine. And she is the one who named our daughter Wairimo after her grandmother.”
“How many times have I told you Otieno that ladies from Central Kenya are the most beautiful in whole of Kenya?” Maina said proudly.
“Beautiful ladies are from Nyanza, so beautiful like Aphrodite herself unlike ladies from Central kila time unasikia wakisema,’ niko na Amoeba pliz nipeleke nione daktari” Otieno said imitatively.
“Common guys, let’s give Fujo time to tell his story,” Aluda muttered.
“Before you proceed, what kind of job were you doing at night?” I asked.
“I was a watchman. I was guarding the hotel called All Shines hotel. The owner of that hotel was Alfred Kamau. He was the nicest man I have ever met. I took the job because that hotel was few blocks away from where I was living.
“As I was saying the love for my family made me want to spend the whole day with them but I got to sleep because I was always tired whenever I came from my job. I couldn’t sleep the whole day, four hours were enough. The rest of the hour I would spent with my family
“If my children were a life right now, Wairimo would have been seventeen years old and John would have been fifteen years old. My daughter Wairimo was so beautiful like her mother and my son John was my pride.”
“Please bring for us another round of five bottles,” I ordered. “Please continue Fujo.”
“That night I got right to work. I spent something like one hour, I am not sure, concentrating on ways to find a well paying job and suddenly I felt a sleep.
“I dreamt I was in a place, I don’t know where but that place was too sandy. I was with my family there standing. Abruptly they started sinking into the sand. In the dream I thought the sinking would stop but it didn’t. So I had to try and pull them up but the more I tried the more they sunk, at last, they were all gone, swallowed by the sand! When I woke up something in my mind went click.
“That odd, brief weird sensation felt like a sudden crystallization. I sat there questioning myself if I was going insane. For I had strong conviction about that dream I dreamt about my family it had suddenly crystallize into reality but how?
“I reasoned along in a perplexing, dreamlike way in which you relate the rules of logic to impossibilities. How did it come that my dream had never crystallized before? There was no plausible explanation for that but I went along with explanation that maybe it was a warning from the ancestral spirit. Or maybe I just wanted something to believe in.
“Did I believe that? No, but I knew it. As once said by somebody I don’t know who,’ there is reasonable difference between knowledge and belief. All men know they will die and none of them believes it.’ It was somehow like that with me. So I had to try to convince myself that it will never happen to my family.
“As I came to my senses, I saw building burnings and people shouting, ’Kibaki na Kuvuitu hawezi kutuibia kura zetu, Kura zetu zilikuwa ni za Baba (Raila)’ with a machete in their hands. No, that was not happening. My family was now in danger.”
“Why did you think your family was in danger? If I am not mistaken, most of the people lives in Kariobangi are luhyas and luos and according to my observations, those two tribes are like family,” Maina said.
“You see in this democratic country of ours, there has been a war that goes back into 1963.”
“What war? In 1963 is the same year we gain our independent!” Otieno interrupted.
“There has been a war, a tribal war. A war spearheaded by politicians like Ronald Ngala, Jomo Kenyatta and others to make the list short.”
“What about Oginga Odinga?” Aluda asked.
“In 1960s the father of Raila was so naïve. He thought that if he let Jomo Kenyatta be the first president of Kenya he will be easily handed over power after the end of Kenyatta’s term. That was the deal before he was betrayed by the Kenyatta thus the genesis of the conflict between luos and kikuyus.
“From the books I have read I’d come up with the same notion but this tribal war existing since 1963, there are no documents showing that,” I told him.
“History is a lie and why is it a lie? Because there are a lot of lies within the truth and according to the law of the truth, a lie within a truth is basically a lie.”
”How do you know all of these? You don’t seem to be a scholar!” Maina told him.
“Life itself can make you one. It forces you to become even a philosopher. Pata mashida, ndiyo utajua nasema ukweli.”
”What did you do when you thought your family was in danger?” I wanted to know so I asked him.
“I rushed home to see my family. I didn’t care about my job; all I wanted that time was to see my family. On my way to my house I didn’t believe what I saw. People breaking into shops taking anything they could carry. When stealing, they didn’t care the shop belongs to a luhya, a luo, a kikuyu or a kalenjin. At that moment, your best friend was indeed your enemy.
“It wasn’t about steeling alone. In the act of stealing some were committing murder, killing each other because he or she belongs to another tribe. That was really inhuman.”
“What happened when you arrived at your place?” I asked.
“Before I tell you what happened when I arrived, allow me to tell you what I saw that made me sick to my stomach that night. I saw my neighbor Nderitu slashed to death by Juma our neighbor and a very good friend of his. At that moment, calm and a humble guy whom we’ve known for long as a good neighbor was no more. He was so wild only with one motive, to kill Nderitu and others of his kind.
“In that war, Kikuyu suffered severely. It was one tribe against three tribe, luos, kalenjins and luhyas.”
“What about kamba?”Aluda asked.
“Kamba were like independent candidate, they were just there with the fear to take sides so we were alone to fight that war,” Maina said bitterly.
“Don’t you worry Samuel, wakati huu tuko na nyinyi!” Aluda said.
“Excuse me Aluda! Mko pamoja kufanya nini?” Otieno asked Aluda.
“Come on guys, right now we have been told a sad story of Nderitu and Juma ama that does not mean anything to you chaps?” I told Aluda and Otieno not to create tension between them
“Guys we are and we will always be buddies. It does not matter if I am a kikuyu or a luhya. We are friends and friends are supposed to protect and take care of each other,” Maina told us.
“Back to what you were telling us, you arrived at your house and find your wife murdered by your luo and luhya neighbors?” Aluda mumbled.
“They were not murdered by anybody; I found them safe but so terrified. That whole night I tried to console them that everything was going to be alright the next day but even myself I wasn’t sure if it will be. That whole night I stayed with a machete in my hand. Not for killing innocent neighbors but for protection. I got to protect what was mine and my wife, daughter and my son were mine, it was my responsibility to protect them.
“That night I was so disturbed in thoughts. I’d hard time dealing with everything I have saw for the past three hours. No, this isn’t the same Kenya I’ve been so proud of. Why all of these killing? Then something hit on me about Democracy.
“You see Democracy is all about the majority. But I guess they didn’t consider what will happen to a country with so many tribes.”
Fujo paused, still looking down at the half-filled glass that he twirled slowly between his hands.
Aluda prompted him, “And of course you woke up there and took a bus to your village.”
“It wasn’t like that,” Fujo said bleakly. “It wasn’t like that at all. Did I wake up the next day? No. But it was just I didn’t sleep that night, I stayed awake for my family.”
He paused again. “It was odd, at first. Together with my family we walked out into the streets and looked into the people’s faces, and I felt like shouting,’ you are fools. Why the killings and destruction of properties because of some few people in the high echelon?’
“But I didn’t do that. They wouldn’t have listened to me; they were so deep into barbarism. To them, I was just an insignificant single member of their tribe. Who could believe two days earlier, we all belonged to the same tribe-called Kenya? We laughed, worked and even our children played together without any thought of tribalism? I wanted nothing to do with those people but to get back to my village safe with my family.
“And I could not get back! There just wasn’t any way. I had a vague idea that I could try to find a way through the streets to Machakos-bus station. But it didn’t work out because on my way through the street of Mathare we were ambushed.
“I stood there paralyzed for a moment, dizzy with unreasonable hope that I would stop five Enemies armed with machete on my own. I didn’t dare either too look at my wife and children for the fear of failure.
“Despair came almost simultaneously as I watched those five barbaric piece of shit came closer to my family. I resisted for a moment-but only for a moment.
“What did you do? Mzae uliwaonyesha moto ama ndo walikuonyesha?” Aluda said recklessly.
“This isn’t the movies you like to watch Aluda! Only in the movies is where you can find people like Jet Lee, Jacky Chan and others who can take five people without a sweat. This was real!” Otieno told him.
“What happened next?” I inquired.
“There was no sanctuary for me but for my wife I had hope. A hope those Mungiki goons could not harm her because they were of the same tribe. I was wrong! They called her a traitor and at that moment one of them pierced a knife through her heart. No, my wife was not dying! It can’t be. How can I lose the love of my life! One of the people who kept me believing I’d something to live for? That was it, and enough was enough! They have taken enough for the owner to notice.”
“Mzae, ulijijaza ama?” Aluda asked.
“Aluda if you have nothing to say be quiet please.” Maina told him.
“Is ok Maina, yes nilijijaza but for a moment. I went for them, the pain must have blinded me just enough to make my aim bad. Only he wasn’t there where I aimed. My aim was on the one who was so well built mungiki; I guessed he was their leader. He knew I was going to jump and hit him and he faded-not far. I am not a Superman-just far enough for my fist ranked him without getting him.
“He slammed me harder across my nose with his fist. I was hurt, enough to make me wince, and enough to be fuddled for split second. I dropped down flat on my belly and let the guy be on top of me. I only wanted to live a little longer for my children. After that, the hell with it!
“Those people were doing a lot of shouting, all lusting for my blood. My children on the other hand, were crying, a cry of despondency. My John and Wairimo gave up seeing their hope has been easily defeated. That is what happened.”
After saying that, he was now serious and unsmiling. Looking to his eyes I saw a very broken man. I wanted him to stop telling the story but I couldn’t stop him. I couldn’t because of curiosity. I really wanted to know what happened next thus I kept quiet just giving him my ears.
Fujo took a large sip of beer in his glass leaving it almost empty as we kept exchanging glance with each other. We were all curious to know what happened next so Otieno asked him, “What happened?”
“They butchered my children one by one. First they started with my John and then Wairimo. They didn’t care of them having kikuyu blood, what the entire well built body goon said that he only wanted was to punish me. To be punished because I was from another tribe.
“I wanted to die right then. I don’t know how I didn’t, except that I didn’t care much if I did. It seems like people who don’t want to live get it. The one who care goes on forever. The absurd thing they did, they left me without even trying to kill me. At that very moment I wanted death to come and take me but it didn’t.
“Until now their death are on me. If I can travel back in time I can do anything possible or impossible just to prevent their death.”
“So how did you adapt after losing them?” Maina asked him.
“At first, I felt like killing myself. But I didn’t. They say a man can adapt himself to anything. I adapted myself as best as I could with drugs and alcohol just to cease the pain of what happened ten years ago.”
Aluda shrugged, “how do we know hii story yako ni ya ukweli?”
“Why do you think the story is a lie,” I frowned at Aluda.
“Maybe it is just a story so that he may have drinks on us,” Aluda replied.
“Aluda, everything you see, hear and even read are not seemed what they are but what matters is how you look at them. It’s your choice to believe the story or not.
“You see guys; we are all living a lie. In this country there is no Democracy and the only thing that exists in this country is Numocracy. Whereby, what we care most is the game of numbers. We all heard politicians claiming we have the numbers to do this and that. In this country, Democracy is all about, luhyas, luos, kambas, kikuyus and kalenjins. What about minority tribes like Okiek? Here they don’t matter; they are just insignificant single tribes. How could these big five tribes in Kenya care about Okiek? How could they? I know you all know the better answer for that question.
”If we really want Democracy in this country we should try not to be tribal. Vote for any person regardless of the tribe who has Kenya’s interest at heart. But for now, let’s continue with Numocracy.”
“Oh, come on now,” Otieno protested lightly.” It is obvious that will never happen.”
Fujo shook his head soberly as he rose to leave.”Then is about time we all do something.”
As he stood, we kept starring at each other. We had nothing to say to each other but to think of what Fujo had said. As he was about to leave at that moment, I remembered something…
Awake! Why do you sleep, O lord?Arise! Do not cast us off forever.Why do you hide Your face?And forget our affliction and ouroppression?