I was once the strongest.
My name is Mary Diana. In a small way, I am like the hero of Ibsen's play, Enemy of the People. One day deep inside me, I knew I had no choice but to face my fears and stand up for what I knew was right. Here is my story.
It was a beautiful night. The stars were bright and the sky clear with no clouds. There was a full moon and I felt one with nature. Everything was so peaceful; I was seated outside the house with my aunt, my sister and two of my cousins. My aunt is an elderly woman who is tall and slim. She has the darkest skin I have ever seen and the whitest eyes possible. Her face is very expressive as she tells us the story of Guka our grandfather. A man who is looked upon as a legend. His stories are full of intrigue and mystery. Like the time his wife ran away and when elders came to call him for a meeting he stood at the top of a hill and threw a spear down shouting that when the spear hit the ground, his wife should be in at his home.
I am sorry, I was distracted back to the night.
We sat around a fire and sipped on mursik the traditional kalenjin milk. The wind breeze was soft and calm. As we sat we heard a distant scream. Then more voices were heard. “ Mwizi, mwizi! Muuwe!” (Thief thief Kill him.)
Immediately, we stood up. My two cousins jumped to their feet and ran to their house. They emerged holding a panga in one hand and a spear in the other. Then they took off through the farm in the direction of the screams. My sister held my hand more out of need of companionship than fear. My aunt tried to keep us calm by urging us into the house. But there was no way, I was going back to the house, I had to hear everything to the end.
The shouting grew louder and louder. And out of the darkness a man ran towards us. “ Mwalimu mwalimu nisaidie,” (Teacher teacher please help me!) He cried out. My aunt is a retired teacher and a person who is highly regarded by the community. That is the reason the man who looked like a teenager came to her house.
“It is all a lie, Mama you know me, I work at Wangombe’s and his son who is my age hates me. I work hard, I have worked hard all my life and you are the person who first took me in and led me Wangombe’s. I did not steal it was the son and because I am not blood no one believes me. Mama help me please!” He continued crying out.
Mwizi Kill him shouts kept getting louder and louder. The people were coming closer and my aunt had just a minute to make her decision. I felt like holding the young man’s hand and hiding him in the house.
“Help him! Help him! Help him!” My heart shouts. How can I not? I think. All my life I have never stood up to majority. I always know the power in numbers. Especially now in a foreign land where I am only a visitor. My aunt looks at us with sadness in her eyes.
Her eyes tell us he is saying the truth while her mouth forms the words, But. I look at my sister; she looks to the ground and takes a step back. The short man in an Orange ODM written t-shirt and grey shorts has a huge wound on his forehead. It looks like he was hit by a stone and his blood mixes with his tears as they run down his cheeks.
We are all quiet; I am hoping this is all a dream. “I know what you are saying is true Jose, but what can I say that will have a mad mob of blood-lusting people believe me? They will use you as an example because cases of cattle and maize being stolen have risen,” Says Aunt Senge in a low voice.
Now the shouts and screams of the mob sound like they are just behind us. I grab Jose’s hand and lead him into the house, I lock the door.
I do not know what I have just done but I know it is the right thing to do. My courage and guts are now gone. The mob are upon us lead by my two cousins. “Mama, has Jose that lying thief come here?” My cousin asks in a loud deep voice that is trembling with of anger.
My dear friend, the mob consisted of almost 20 men. Some of the men were as young as 15 and others as old as 70. Some held panga’s others held spears and the rest had rungus in their hands. On their faces were looks of anger and eagerness. I knew they would hear no reason. At least not from a young girl who knew not their culture. The law was theirs and justice would be dispensed as they saw fit.
My aunt opened her mouth then closed it. She looked at me and so did the men. Then she fell back into her chair. Her son, my cousin, moved to her side and held her hand. He mumbled some words into her ears and she nodded.
Then he stood up and came to me. He looked sternly into my eyes and said, “ This does not concern you. You do not know how much we suffer in the hands of thieves. Who are you to protect a thief?”
At his words, the rest of the men looked at me surprised. Their looks of surprise changed to shock then back to anger. One of them shouted that Jose was such a good liar that he had gotten to me. Then their voices rose slowly from murmurs to full chants.
“Lets Kill Him! Kill Him! Kill...”
I am scared, my heart is pounding very fast and I see Jose’s beaten body lying next to the fire as it dies away. “No!” I think. “I can still stop this from happening.” My cheeks are wet, my lips are trembling and I am feeling cold from head to toe.
I run the five metres to the door and I tell them to get away from it. “Jose is just a boy, his parents died and he is all alone. All his life he has faced trouble and suffering. If you kill him tonight, God will curse you all,”
“A murderer is worse than a thief. All of you will be murderers!” I am shouting, I am crying, I am screaming. I am strong. Now hands are on me. My cousins are pulling me away. I throw my arms in the air, I kick the one on the right and I bite the one on my left. I fall to the ground but they still drag me away.
In the moonlight I watch as they break down the door. Two men pull Jose out of the house and right next to the dying fire, they beat him with their rungus. They tear the t shirt off his body. His head is bleeding, the breeze whispers, “Sorry!” I hear it so clearly and I close my eyes. I curl my small body into a ball.
I stood up to them but they did not listen. They were blinded with rage and energy; misguided and stupid energy. I stood up alone and though I failed, I believed and I was brave.