Friday, May 29, 2009

...For My Congo

In large numbers we trooped, communally fleeing another round of genocide about to burst at the Eastern part of the country. We were all free Congolese but now, we have been torn from our homes and hope to become refugees in our ownland.
For two days, we had journeyed, daubed with dust and weariness. Thousands of little children, now disrobed of innocence, lugged on their battered heads mountains of tattered mats, heavy bags and other bits and pieces. Reduced to mere skeletons, this unquenchable fire had forced them all into swift maturity. Unlike their mates in other parts of the world birthed into the tenderness and greenness of supple spring, they were born into gushing guns and vile violence.
Most of us were women: married, widow, cripple, old and pregnant. And we bore the greatest chunk of this burden on our cracked backs. With bitterness, we reaped the works of male monsters, whose selfish war drove us away from our security and rest. We were mothers, scattered in pursuit of what our world could not give.
Hungry and worn, most of us wanted to stop by the way and rest. But we dared not. No thanks to distant guffawing of armored tanks unleashed on us by friends and foes alike. And in this muddled chaos, a great deal of us were worst than the blind, for we struggled to identify the true face of the enemy. The rebels clamoured for a taste of the national cake through the grizzly rage of the gun; the government resisted their rage with the blast of the bomb. And we died, everyday, we suffered.
Drooped, some collapsed by the way and were quickly put back on track by others. But of course, there were some who could not make it; the rest of us became stronger for the others. We were determined to survive where millions have perished.

I was starving quite all right, but I had no heart to think about myself. Rather, I was thinking about my two children. While Sabila was walking weakly in front, carrying a bulky bag on his ten year old head, my daughter, just nine months old was tied to my back. It grieved my heart to realize that I could not protect my kids from the evil of this reckless world. Just like I could not protect their father.
It was just like yesterday. My husband was taken away from me, forced into the land of nebulous shadows and muffled dreams.
That morning, mistaken for a rebel, my husband was shot several times and he died right in my arms. The memory of his death was stained with blood and horror.
And sad enough, I was not the only witness. My son saw it all. He saw death on his father’s face.
Everyday, I feared for him. Since it happened, nightmare lived in my dreams. In one of those nightmares, I saw Sabila carrying a big machine gun. Like a warrior, he descended in the midst of so many government forces and began to shoot. He killed all the uniformed soldiers and did not stop at that. He proceeded to a hall full of innocent school kids and fired on until there was none alive. These bizarre scenes continued until I woke on my bed with a start.

“Mama,” Sabila’s weak voice brought me back to the painful world of harsh reality.
“What is it, my son?”
“It is my stomach. It hurts.”
“I know it does. But don’t worry, we would soon get to the camp. There would be enough for us to eat.” I consoled him. His lively countenance had all vanished. Once, his flesh had been as smooth as the moon. But as I looked upon him, what I saw was a different tale.
“But my legs ache too. Can’t I rest them a bit?”
“Be patient Sabila. We would soon reach our destination.”
“You said that more than one hour ago and yet we are still here. Are we going to die like father? Mother, tell me.” My son said and that hurt so bad. At that moment, I wanted to curse the fertile earth for bringing so much hell into our lives.
God must have seen the agony of a widow, for at that instant, the UN and AU refugee camp came to view. Like fellow travelers, excitement flowed in me like spring of water. At last, my children can have something to eat and drink.
Immediately we reached the overcrowded camp, I filled a bottle with enough water. I sat on the ground and gave the bottle to Sabila. While he was busy drinking, I loosened my wrapper so I could free Skunda from my back and give her water to drink.
At first, I thought she was still sleeping. But when I shook her again without a response, I panicked. I screamed her name like a mad woman. Some aid workers came and took her from me. From the grim look in their eyes, I knew my daughter was gone, killed by this senseless war.
Under the sympathetic glare of many, I rolled on the dusty earth and cried. I wept for my daughter and her father. I wept for all I had lost. I wept for my Congo.