Reunited with Family after War

clare

— By Clare from Uganda

We are having breakfast at home, in Mpondwe, at the border of Uganda and Congo. The environment is so quiet, and all we can hear is our conversation and the sound of the birds in the trees surrounding our home. It is 1996 and I am only three years old; my elder brother Ronald is five and the younger one Kenneth, only one year old. Our parents are at school in Kampala, which is 346km from home. We are under the care of the house help, Betty and a cousin Janet, who are 20 and 17 years old.

At the time, there is an insurgence in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is said that the Allied Defense Force (ADF) rebels are planning an attack on the government of Uganda. Our home, being at the border of the two countries, is a potential target for the rebels.

As we enjoy our breakfast, Betty is telling us stories of how the rebels raid places. She is a refugee from DRC, who settled in Uganda. She tells us about how rebels attacked her home in Beni, in Eastern DRC and burnt their house to ashes. Her story is cut short, as we hear a loud bang in the back yard.

Within no time, unknown people surround our home. Some are dressed in leaves and others in rugs. Around their necks, they carry guns and other machines. Betty has been through this kind of situation before, so, she shouts; “Nibarebo!” meaning “They are rebels!” I am so scared to the teeth that I pee in my pants. Janet and her carry us to the house and tell us to hide under the bed in the master bedroom. As soon as we get there, the rebels start firing gunshots to our end. Some of the bullets land at our feet, but we cannot move an inch. A few minutes into the firing, Betty orders us to move to the next bedroom. The gunfire is intense outside the house, but the rule is no crying nor getting hungry.

It goes on for hours, but we just hang in there. Janet tells us to pray; but we tell her that the rebels will hear us. She insists that rebels are against God’s will, so they will not hear us when we pray. We start reciting the rosary. Within no time, darkness has fallen. We cannot sleep, but the light rays striking through the window indicate that it is a new day. Phewww! Thank God we are alive.

The goats are bleating and making big stamps, as if being released from their shed. Betty and Janet peep through the window and watch them being taken away. “One of them has a knife; he is slaughtering the fattest of them all.” Janet whispers to us. “Oh yes, that is the one which recently gave birth to twins!” Betty reacts. “Are they going to give us some meat?” my elder brother Ronald asks. We are very hungry, and Kenneth cannot hold it any longer. He crawls out of the bedroom. We try to pull him back, but he insists and returns with a dish of left over rice from the store next door. That is like finding water in the middle of a desert. We all take a bite and get some energy to keep us going. But while we eat, one of the rebels outside shouts “I think they are still alive!” We then hear a loud bang on the roof, this time it is louder than before. The next bedroom is on fire. There is so much smoke and we are all chocking. The place gets quiet again. We are wondering; “Should we move out of the house and surrender to these beasts?” “No we cannot!”

The wait is too long, we are anxious, so we decide to move out. The roads are filled with burnt tires, bullets and ash. We begin to trek, but where are we going anyway? We are not even sure whether it is safe to even walk around. As we walk through the empty streets, we find an old man seated by the roadside.
“My children, where are you going?” He says to us.
“We do not know where to go, but one thing for sure is, we want to go where other people are” says Betty to the man.

“I do not have the strength to walk, like you young people do. Because if I do, I will die, so I have decided to sit here and wait for the rebels to shoot me dead. But since you are young and energetic, please go to Kasese town. That is where everyone ran to when the rebels came. When you get there, pray for me also, as I pray for you my children” He said.

He hugs us and off we go. At that time, all I feel is joy and renewed strength. Kasese is about 55 kilometers away. We start our journey, as Betty narrates to us stories. She says you can never realize how long your journey is, if you converse. It is quite a peaceful journey until we reach the Queen Elizabeth National Park. Here, darkness begins to fall, and we wonder how we are going to walk through this danger zone filled with wild animals. As we wait in the dark for another morning to come, we notice a car approaching us from a distance.

It is our parish Priest Fr Augustine Kithendere. He asks us to enter his truck and says to us “I was with your father today; he is very weak because he thinks the worst happened to you. Oh thank you Jesus for keeping these angels safely.” Fr Augustine then takes us to the church in Kasese town, and we are reunited with dad. Dad has lost so much weight, but the joy of reuniting with his children surpasses everything. He cannot believe that he is seeing us again. To date, dad says it was because of patience that we survived.

I Was Simply Getting Ready for the Day…

adebisi

— By Adebisi from Nigeria

Some days seem hotter than others; especially in April when the morning sun is in a haste to beautifully display its radiance and cast its heated smile on everyone. That was the case that Monday morning. Until a big bang altered the day’s DNA. It knocked me out of the bed and woke me to a shaky building, the walls vibrating and the roof gnashed their teeth until its sound hit a crescendo.

I rushed briskly to the window, wondering at my own safety, but everywhere was calm the very second the blast ended. I overheard someone says it was a rock blast at a quarry site nearby, so I moved ahead with my day like nothing significant had happened. Hurrying to fix breakfast and get set for the day, I was barely done with any particular chore when my phone rang. “Hello, hope you are fine? I’m just checking up on you”. That was the voice of a very old friend. Then the phone rang again and it was my mother. Why is she calling again this morning after we already spoke last night? Then it was my dad calling; “We heard there was a bomb blast this morning, just checking on you”. He hung up. It was at that moment I realized the whole neighborhood was rowdy with everyone rushing to the scene of the bomb blast.

It was Monday the 14th of April 2014. A bomb had blasted in Nyanya, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria and it was obviously the handwork of the dreaded terrorist group, Boko Haram. Looking up to the sky towards the direction of the scene (a few miles from my residence) was a gigantic cloud of smoke rising slowly into the heavens. Minutes later, images of hundreds of dead bodies, all burnt and blasted to death made headlines social media. Headless bodies mingled with shredded human parts. An arm lying atop a car, limbs across the culvert, a woman holding tight to her baby (both dead anyway), busted bellies, broken brains and a few survivors still shivering in an almost lifeless state. Then an unborn baby busted out of a pregnant woman alive, with the umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck, lying in a pool of blood left everyone awestruck.

About thirteen luxury busses, then some smaller busses, countless private cars got caught in the blast. It was the worst attack ever, yet it happened so close to me. But that Monday morning had a lot more in store. As victims were rushed in their hundreds to hospitals and pharmacies, the telephone lines jammed as a result of the thousands of calls emanating from that direction. Over the news, the incident was reported mildly “A bomb blasted in Nyanya, killing about thirty people. Boko Haram has taken responsibility for it. Also over two hundred girls were reportedly abducted from a boarding school in Chibok; a small village in Borno state of Nigeria”.
The president came on air to condemn the act and consoled the family of victims while promising to take care of the survivors’ medical bills. Just as days went by, and the events were about to be swept under the carpet, a global movement began.

Everyone, demanded the President to “Bring Back Our Girls” and that was it; the birth of a new movement that continuously sat-out in public places and daily requested the speedy return of the Chibok girls. Then as this movement began gaining momentum, the news reported that no girls were abducted in Chibok on that morning and that this movement was politically driven, and aimed at destabilizing the government. That sounded believable and just as I was about to believe it, the news reported that seven of the abducted girls had been rescued by the military. Then I heard that a search party from the United States of America had arrived Nigeria to comb the Sambisa forest (a forest that lies along the Nigeria and Niger republic border) and rescue the Chibok girls. Then I heard silence, and again a series of rumors every once in a while about the rescue of some more Chibok girls.

The government through our local media agencies had at some point lied about the total reclaim of territories controlled by the terrorist group. The truth is only made known through international media agencies since the Nigerian government cannot influence nor have their report edited by the State Security Service (S.S.S) as they do with the seemingly largest television network in Africa before broadcast. What this implies is that the larger population is fed with lies and only those that can afford the high rate of subscribing to cable networks monthly have a chance of hearing the truth as it happens.

Hey Trump! Africa Has Something to Tell You

We asked seven YaLa members from across the continent what they wish they could say to the new American President.

  1. I hope 20 January 2017 is an opportunity for you to cool down hearts of those in fear as what would happen to them. Be president of everyone as the champion of Democracy.”

“Hey Trump! Congratulations for your victory in the 2016 Presidential Elections and for being America’s 45th President! Americans have spoken on behalf of the World through voting. Much has been spoken before, during and after the elections but what the World should do now is accept the current sphere for the World betterment. Why do I say the ‘World’ in place of America? Because America is for everyone and when things go wrong in America everyone on earth is affected in one way of the other; being it economically, politically and so on. I know you were the victorious as a result of what you promised the World to fulfill. Yes, some of the promises were good and others may not go well with other quarters of the World. I hope 20 January 2017 is an opportunity for you to cool down hearts of those in fear as what would happen to them. Be president of everyone as the champion of Democracy. Let the World enjoy America with good faith.”

– McDonald, 27, Malawi

  1. “Believe in yourself, there is no limit to what you can achieve in life and always remember that if Hillary can reach that height, you can too.”

“First to Hillary Clinton, I have to congratulate you for your beliefs and for the good work you have done for America in the last few years under the president Barack Obama government and I must say you have done a very good job. To the ladies out there supporting Hillary, thanks for your courage and the passion you showed to promote Hillary to become the 45th America’s President which didn’t eventually work out. My advice to you is that violence isn’t needed because nothing can stop Donald Trump from ruling. I can just tell you to believe in yourself, there is no limit to what you can achieve in life and always remember that if Hillary can reach that height, you can too. To America’s 45th President: Donald Trump, congratulations, you deserve to rule the nation not only from your great manifesto but also for your inspiring winning speech. Please remember your promises, help fight immortalizes and help make America great again under you. God bless Trump, God bless America.”

– Dada John, 24, Nigeria

  1. Guess what Trump, we are Africans, not failures. We will sail, and not sink. We, like the United States of America, will invent and innovate our way into high stake prosperity. So do yourself a favor and be a part of our success story.”

“Hey Trump, congratulations for your electoral victory at the polls. I must say that you were not my favorite candidate as my feminist perspective gravitated towards your female opponent, but I am delighted that the majority had their way. You were also not the favorite of many young Africans because of your proposed migration policies, but I wish to tell you that Africa has come of age. We are not that jungle waiting in the dark for re-colonization, we are off to an A-game. While you perfect your plans to deport African migrants, I am so optimistic that these migrants will come home and be the pioneers of our home grown technology. Us, the young Africans back home, we are not folding our arms and waiting for your foreign aid. We are building our human capital. We have realized that our future is not in the extractive industry and while we may not have the best leaders, believe me Trump, someday very soon, Africa will shut her doors to Western influence in readiness to sink or sail. And guess what Trump, we are Africans, not failures. We will sail, and not sink. We, like the United States of America, will invent and innovate our way into high stake prosperity. So do yourself a favor and be a part of our success story.”

– Adebisi, 33, Nigeria

  1. I am looking forward to seeing you implementing everything you said as it will sure show you are a man of your word.”

“Dear Trump…Congratulations for the win…. From the first day you showed interest to run as President I preferred you only because am a fan of your books and I feel your approach towards Africa will make us grow. The fact that you portray us as a poor bunch who can’t survive without Aid , please know that we are a very rich continent blessed with all sorts of resources but it’s people like you who have brainwashed us into thinking we are poor. I am looking forward to seeing you implementing everything you said as it will sure show you are a man of your word. As an African I am not offended by your words as they make me realize that my life matter and I’ve work to do with it.”

– Lena, 30, Malawi

  1. “I congratulate you not because you somehow managed to insult ‘everyone’ and still win the hearts of many. I congratulate you because you proved to the world that even a multitude will always give way to a man who knows where he is going”

“Respect for others especially our elders is one value most Africans are brought up with. So, I won’t come here trying to call you Trump like I was scolding my neighbor’s cat. Hello Uncle Trump, Congratulations on leading a mass rebellion and revolution on the Government of the United States as we’ve come to know it. I congratulate you not because you somehow managed to insult ‘everyone’ and still win the hearts of many. I congratulate you because you proved to the world that even a multitude will always give way to a man who knows where he is going. To say that I was heartbroken that Hillary Clinton lost is an understatement. Not that she is related to my ancestors or that we must have been kinsmen in a past life, the attack on her gender despite being a round peg in a round hole awakened the feminist in me. Thank you for the call to do more for girls all over the world. Oh! And if you really decide to send home all my kinsmen who are ‘stealing all your jobs’, don’t leave my grandfather and his monkeys out. After all, it is a farmer who wants to steal yams that remains on the farm long after his mates have found their way back home.”

– Anuoluwapo, 24, Nigeria

  1. Please don’t lose sight of the real task ahead, and you shouldn’t forget those workers whose jobs you promised to restore. Forget the idea of building fences or any other such barricade or constrictions, the world is so intertwined that nobody can stand all alone.”

“Dear Trump, Your victory came as a huge surprise to many around the world. The margin was reasonably significant and I take it to be a clear reflection of what Americans want. Congratulations on your hard-earned victory! As you prepare to strut into the White House in January, please remember that Americans are watching you and people in all corners of the earth are looking on to see what you’ll make of the opportunity offered you to serve. Please don’t lose sight of the real task ahead, and you shouldn’t forget those workers whose jobs you promised to restore. Forget the idea of building fences or any other such barricade or constrictions, the world is so intertwined that nobody can stand all alone. Muslims, Christians, traditionalists, — plus any other religion one professes to follow — we are all one and there’s no gains in fanning the flames of disunity or division. American can only be great again if everyone is United, if there’s equality and freedom and hope for people toiling every day to better their lot. Peace breeds progress as much as unity drives cooperation.”

– Linus, 23, Nigeria

  1. Now, bring on the surprise, Mr. Trump! Desperation for power can make a person do surprising things; maybe we will see a new Trump in the aftermath of this fierce election.”

“Hey Trump, the rest of the world woke up in shock and awe as USA decided to create a NEW WORLD ORDER by granting you a stunning victory that many -like me- find it very difficult to comprehend. Majority rule simply prevailed for a ‘’Trumping’’ Trump-Pence leadership. Suffice it to say, once the ‘’shock fever’’ passes, we would surely be privy to glimpses of some rational explanation for such reality. Honestly, I am bed-stricken with ‘’shock’’, but, still holding onto my analytic lenses. A Trump government must be based on working together, social justice and economic renewal, rather than sowing fear and division as cried by many. And the solutions we offer have to improve the lives of everyone, not pit one group of people against another. From where I sit, I can only wish Americans the very best of luck in this new era because they need it in the next 4 years or more. They have made their choice. The urgent necessity is now for us all to work across continents including my Ghana to tackle our common fair share of the global challenges facing us. In the words of John F. Kennedy, a former USA president, ‘’Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty’’.  Now, bring on the surprise, Mr. Trump! Desperation for power can make a person do surprising things; maybe we will see a new Trump in the aftermath of this fierce election.”

– Theodora, 27, Ghana

Have Bullets Become the New Chains of the Black Man?

steven

— By Steven from Namibia

I would have never imagined that I would stand on the very steps Martin Luther King Jr spoke from on May 17th 1967. Here at the Sproul Plaza at University of California-Berkeley, he spoke to a community of people that have suffered significant trauma. The hub of free speech from the time of Martin Luther King Jr fifty something years later still mourns the injustices against black people.

The atmosphere was solemn as final preparations were being done. Students, faculty, community members, black white, latino and allies were all gathered for a vigil to honor those that had suffered under police brutality in the past two weeks. The resounding storyline is that the shootings are nothing new; what are new are the videos and social media that have brought light to the ferocity of this violence. Mothers are afraid for their sons; they worry about whether their sons will get home safely night after night. The increase of police presence does not calm the situation and put people at ease but rather increases the fear and the anxiety of the black community. “To protect and serve”, the foundational slogan upon which the police department is built, is met with skepticism and sometimes repugnance. One of the African fellows here at UC- Berkeley mentioned that he is afraid to stay out late fearing for his life because he is not immediately distinguishable from the locals.

One cannot help but realize that the Black Lives Matter movement is part of a larger ongoing story for justice. The vigil began with a short formal program acknowledging the University and the Cal Black Student Union for ensuring that the event takes place. Thereafter was an open mic for anyone who wanted to share words, songs, chants for catharsis. There were messages filled with encouragement, positivity and others full of pain, anger and frustration. However this was a safe place for us to feel, speak and be. Hearing our voices, singing, being together was healing in of itself.

Taking into account our Namibia history with apartheid, I felt connected to the stories being shared. For centuries black people have suffered and carry that trauma which is not easy to “just” get over with. One of the student speakers said a profound statement “we are always fighting, never healing”. It is sad to see how inequality has been hemmed into the very fabrics of our history and society. The blood of the innocent young men and women cries for justice. How long until our narrative changes from suffering to thriving? How long and how often do we forgive and turn the other cheek until it is enough?

I, for once, had to examine my own heart to look into my prejudice and start to interrogate and speak against the systems that proliferates inequality. My silence speaks to the normalization of injustice. As a Namibian I cannot help but think; have we truly reconciled? Are the playing fields equal in access and opportunity or shall we too have our day of reckoning?

The Death of Democracy

mark
— by Mark from Zimbabwe

As I lay in my bed, staring at the blank ceiling, I reminisced about the good times we had shared together. We had come a long way together, me and her. I met her when I was born, but only when I was old enough  I was able to understand her. She was strong and free spirited and she had given me hope for a brighter future. With her by my side, I knew I could conquer the world.

Everyone loved and adored her, especially the politicians. They spoke highly of her, and made the masses chant her name day and night. They gave her too much attention, especially during elections and this made me a bit jealous. I was afraid that their sweet-talking tongues would persuade her to go with them, but then again she was a foreigner in my land. Ships had brought her here for the sole purpose of adding colour to our grey and desolate land.

Her beauty was unparalleled, her power was wide reaching and her voice resonated throughout my motherland. I had never met her and this was also the case for everyone else around here, yet her influence was strong. It was like we were in a trance…a trance we didn’t want to break free. Everything in the motherland was done to match her standards; from the laws to the systems of governance. Her standards were the best and there was nothing better, after all those who came with her highly recommended her work in the foreign lands.

We were told that this was the land of ‘milk and honey’. Gallant sons and daughters had fought tooth and nail, they even put their lives on the line to ensure that everyone had a fair share of this milk and honey. Elections had been held and a new epoch had begun, as a nation new to the world of independence. We had been promised a lot and we had expected a lot as well. Constitutions were drafted by the politicians and a government was formed by the politicians. She made her grand appearance alongside of our former colonial masters who helped create this new phenomena. We had embraced her wholeheartedly from the onset and indeed, the future looked bright.

Everything was serene during the first few years but little did we know that the future looked grim and grey. It was eighteen years of self rule and devoted association to her, when things started taking a negative turn. The land was unsettled and a storm was brewing on the horizon. She remained steadfast and resolute, playing her part in ensuring that the masses smiled at all times. However, the politicians were slowly draining her power by enacting laws which went against her principles. The politicians were doing a good job of keeping her quiet. Slowly but surely, they were turning her into that, which the gallant sons and daughters had fought for in the past.

Like a permanent scar, I still remember the day they came to take her away. Men with guns had come in the middle of the night. They had been sent by the politicians, the same politicians who had worshipped her at her feet. They chained and gagged her. Her screams went unheard as no one noticed what was happening. By the time the sun rose, she was nowhere to be found and the void she had left was filled with an eerie air of silence and sullen faces dripping with tears. Anyone who protested against the prevailing situation was taken away. Any form of resistance from the masses was stifled. We all secretly hoped to see her again, but something deep inside of us told us that we had seen the last of her.

So, here I am, a few years later, as I lay in my bed staring at the blank ceiling. Everyone is mourning…we are mourning the death of democracy. Oh, How I miss her so.