I once read, from the newspapers, a story of a man, as old as a dinosaur, who had defiled a six year old girl. As if defilement had not been bad enough, he had ripped apart the little angel’s genitals. And as if that had not been bad enough, he had infected the little one with HIV. Please note that this was in the early 2000s when HIV infection was still widely conceived as a death sentence.
In her confession, the little one said the elderly man had drawn a blunt object from between his legs, used it to stab her multiple times in the thing that facilitates her micturition, handed her a five hundred shilling coin, and said, “Go home” in a way that mortified her so much that she knew better than to recount the peculiar encounter to her family.
It was only when she started to walk with unsure steps; when an acrid stench exuded stealthily from her pants; when a handful of brave droplets of blood mixed with pus crawled down her legs and sat in her Umoja slippers; that her mother asked, “Ainembabazi, what’s wrong with you?”
- What’s wrong with you, and Ainembabazi broke down. Hid her face behind her palms. Rolled in the dust. Wailed. Told her story, not without difficulty.
Everything happened so fast. The old man was arrested and asked to explain himself. He didn’t mince his words. He didn’t blink when he opened his mouth to speak. His dry bones didn’t snap and break, no. He had the kind of confidence Frank Lampard carried to every press conference before the sky fell at Stamford Bridge. He said a voice had spoken to him for several consecutive nights saying, “go forth and empty all the drops of your manly fluid into the young girl that upholds braided hair on her scalp and your chronic backache shall be healed.”
He was seeking therapy for his long-standing back ailment, he said.
A few weeks back a lady, who I think was born in the same year as I was, murdered the young man with whom she was swapping genitals and the world was up in arms. He was a sports commentator at a radio station in the district where the secondary school I attended sits. No, she didn’t need any help to bring him down. All she had was the resolution, a sharp object – maybe a knife or a panga – and all of us saw the results. A few cuts and he was gone.
When tasked with explaining why she had murdered him, she said it was his fault. Had he not been swallowing his ARVs secretly? Had he not intentionally infected her with the HIV virus for God knows what reason?
She had murdered him because of him.
The man who captured the mayoral seat in my little township can neither write his name nor recite his phone number. When he announced that he would run for office in the recent elections, we thought it was in jest that he did so. The odds were against him. His arch rival was a man who has been in the game from the time of Idi Amin. What we forgot was that the former had bottomless pockets; that whenever he appeared before a gathering of people to speak, it was the money that arrived first, and then himself. He polled 86% of the vote and attributed it to God at the victory party.
There’s an inherent habit amongst our people. The do not want to give themselves the credit even when they deserve it.
It was not because of a certain man in the sky that you won the election; it was your money that bought off people’s fragile hearts. It was because of your malevolence that in your eyes a toddler appeared ripe enough for harvesting. It was because of your clever choices or foolishness that things turned out this way. This whole thing of saying a voice commanded you to start up a makeshift shrine; the same shrine in which you rob people and assure them that they’re doomed must stop. It was because of you that you went all-out and bagged that degree. Weren’t the odds stacked against you too? Don’t you have classmates who invested fractions of their tuition fees in sports betting and it never paid? Didn’t their education come to a bitter halt that very day when you were already in examinations moods?
Can we please learn to give ourselves the credit where it’s due?