Growing up regaled with chronicles of humans who willingly compromise their comfort and stand guard, put their lives on the line, to protect the country, I was not insane to admire the military. I have been a certified military brat ever since I opened my eyes, and I’ve never entertained the silly thought.
My father knew all the faraway lands more than his family as his father did. Once it hit me, I asked them “why”, to which they smiled and replied, “so you could live a better life”, which I did.
The army biscuits, corned beef, the CamelBaks, military rucksacks, Swiss Army knives I stole to show off to kids at school, and the military T-Shirts were the evidence of a better life. Not to mention the truckloads of food Father came home with. Soon, Mother opened a kiosk.
And that was my epiphany, which made me realise the pain behind the good life.
The soldier’s face was impassive in the hot afternoon sun, waiting for the light to turn green. When he moved, he was as agile as an Olympic gymnast.
On the rooftop of Sheria House, he had a clear view of the Parliament building. Guarding the MPigs while they loot. He moved into position, looking through the scope. The looters and plunderers of the nation were busy going about their business, passing laws that protected them and increased their perks.
Then the woman stepped out of the building, her horrendous Brazilian ‘human’ hair weave a lion’s mane around her face. ‘Our Members of Parliament earn peanuts’, he mimicked her voice in his mind. Her bodyguards led her to her bullet-proof limo. Bullet-proof my ass.
She fell before entering her car, never aware of what hit her. One minute she was safe; the next, her security detail was scampering for safety, trying to locate the shooter.
“The Director of Criminal Investigations is working round the clock to get the killer. Preliminary investigations show that the killer is one of the Administration Police officers who provide security during parliament sessions from atop nearby buildings …” the newscaster said.
Five suspects were already in police custody and were assisting the police with investigations. Another stone that the police were going to turn.
“What do you think, Senator,” the moderator said. “Could the MP’s death be linked to her Bill, which sought to increase salaries for MPs …?”
“It’s too early to say. The investigations are ongoing,” the Senator said.
5 Years Ago
The muezzin’s adhan for fajr pierces the cold chilly morning silence.
“Do you hear that?” I ask my friend.
“What? You’re always hearing things.”
“Listen, vehicles approaching our defensive position. Al-Shabaab are coming.”
“Mi sisikii kitu.”
“Wesonga wachanga usingizi. You can’t hear the roar of a vehicle driven in low gear? It’s coming here. From the East.”
“Ahmed, it’s not possible to drive in that terrain without lights.”
“I think we should alert the others …”
“Come on, about what? Don’t be an alarmist. Remember what the Platoon Commander said. Ascertain first …”
Out on the skyline, about 500m away, a lance-like ray of orange-white light shoots up into the approaching dawn. Others shoot up from different directions around the camp.
“We’re surrounded,” I shout.
No sooner I say this than a blinding flash, like sheet-lightning, and a massive ball of varicoloured fire, belches 200m upward from our position. The fireball flattens and then spreads to form the mushroom head of a column of incandescent gases.
From nowhere, like a stealth fighter jet, the vehicle comes. It’s headed straight at our position. Machine gun fire roars from the next trench. Wesonga grabs the Rocket Propelled Grenade launcher next to him, lifts it to his shoulders, and fires. I can’t hear anything for an instant, but the target is down. The vehicle swerves and falls into the trench 100m from our position. And explodes.
Shrapnel rains like confetti, and the faux overhead protection of the trench cast red dust and projectiles into the dawn air. Everyone in the trench lies on the ground, hoping the anti-grenade/bomb drill works.
Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Shouts emanate from all directions. Gunfire follows. Bullets whiz overhead.
The acrid smell of gunpowder and cordite envelops my nasal cavities. My mind is on the verge of delirium.
Flashbulbs of the Elade attack go on in my mind. We’re all dying. Perhaps it is a good thing. At the very least, I’ll leave this nightmarish dystopia.
War cries rage amid Allahu Akbars, machine-gun fire roars like a raging river, bombs engorge smoke rings as they shoot into the sky, turning to dark smoke in one moment and belching flame and crackling with lightning the next. As I look around, all I see are stray limbs and dead creatures—once fine young men, no longer recognisable—others splayed like rag dolls on the morning dew.
“Ah ... Ahm … Ahmed … tek … take care of … my children …”
“Wesonga, don’t say that. Fight, man …” I say as I reload my rifle.
When I turn to look at my friend, he is slumped to the ground, his brains spattered around him. Kimani, too. I can’t fight alone …
The mujahedeen are almost breaking the defence. I go against all the teachings, the directives, the threats and get out of the trench … and run.
I’m not a super-soldier, I say to myself, yet not a coward. I’m just not ready to die.
I run to where I think safety is. Tracers whiz and swish past me, and muzzle flashes in the centre of the position are the light at the end of the tunnel.
“Ahmed, what are you doing here?” the Company Quartermaster says. “It’s cowardice to abandon your position …”
“I’ve not abandoned my position … I’ve changed cover.”
“Go back to your trench and fight from there. Unafanya nini kwa tent ya Colour? Get out of here …”
The burly man lunges at me. He pushes me out, and I resist.
“Get out, or I will shoot you,” Colour says.
Why does he hate me so? “Sitoki!” I say.
He grabs me and pushes me out of the bunker I helped fortify.
A lump blocks my throat. “You’re afraid of me because I know that you sell ammo and rations to al-Shabaab, and that shop of yours in Garissa ume-stock vitu za Kahawa … you hope I will die today …”
He steps away from me and points his weapon at me. I fire instinctively. The bullet leaves a gaping hole where his right eye used to be. His body plunges to the ground and lies thickly over the dry ground, garish scarlet flowing and congealing around him.
I feel a great weight was lift off my shoulders, and a sense of satisfaction wash over me. I have rid the system of the scumbag.
THE BURIAL WAS a fortnight later. The mourners, drawn from the army’s rank and file, swarmed in numbers to offer their heartfelt condolences. The Unit was mourning the dark days for the army. It was a death worth mourning, the life of a soldier snuffed out too early by the terrorist’s bullet.
The media swarmed like locusts, asking questions they were never going to get answers to, keeping count of the funerals to do their own tallying of how many soldiers had died in the attack.
When the firing party marched from the grave, a dark cloud descended. The family was left with the memories of their deceased and promised to get the compensation within months.