The men had been deliberating the whole day. They had planned the operation and laid out strategies of how they would deal with their enemies. Machetes and other weapons were then given out. Each man had sworn an oath to the cause. They would finish off their enemies once and for all.
Their leader said “our enemies are cunning. They have taken our resources and our land. They are rich and we are poor. It is time to take back what belongs to us.”
The others nodded and cheered him on. Traditional beer was brought and the men started drinking, celebrating already their victory that would happen at nightfall.
In the village
Boys were returning from playing by the riverside. The boys had been swimming and then tried to catch some fish with little success. When they reached the village the boys all started running off to their various homes.
Guna and Desto walked together. Guna said “my mother is cooking chicken and rice today. Come eat at our house.”
Desto sighed and said “you know my father doesn’t like me to come to your house. He says that your mother killed my mother. He will beat me again as he beat me the last time he saw me talking to you”
Guna said, “your father was going for that meeting that he usually goes for on Tuesday. He will come home late and drunk. Just come eat then you can go home. Nobody will tell him”
Desto said “you are right. There is only porridge at home for my supper. I miss my mother and her cooking. Do you think your mother will mind if I eat at your house?”
“Of course not. Come let’s race. See who is faster,” Guna said as he started running.
At Guna’s house.
Guna’s mum was stirring the food which was cooking over a fire. When she saw Guna and Desto she smiled. “Desto welcome. It’s been long since you have come to visit us. Will you stay for supper?” Desto shook his head to say yes feeling suddenly shy. Desto and Guna went outside to play football with a friend.
Guna’s mother and his mother had been good friends. Guna’s mother was a midwife. She had been there with Desto’s mother when she was having a baby which died inside her womb. Desto’s mother died after that due to massive blood loss. Things had never been the same after that. Desto’s father blamed Guna’s mother for his wife’s death. He started drinking heavily after that and tried to stop Desto and Guna from being friends.
When Guna’s father came home from running the big supermarket in the village they all sat down to eat. Guna’s father said a prayer and then they dug in. The food was delicious and there was a lot of laughter as Guna and Desto asked for more and more.
In the village – Nightfall
The men stood together to get final instructions. They had their machetes and they had carried long wooden sticks which they lit. The village was deserted everybody was indoors eating supper or sharing stories.
Men went to their designated positions at the doors of specific huts. They set the burning sticks to the thatch of the grass of the houses. They caught fire. When people started noticing their houses were on fire they tried to get out. They were cut down by the machetes. Others seeing what was happening ran back into the huts screaming for help. The men barricaded the wooden windows from outside so that no one could escape that way.
In huts that had not been set on fire, people came out. Some wanted to help. They were turned back by youth with weapons and machetes. They were told to go back into their huts and act like had nothing happened. They were warned that if they talked about what they saw they would also die like goats.
Other villagers just stood there. They laughed as the houses burnt and people screamed. They shouted words of encouragement to the men guarding the houses as they burnt.
At midnight it was finally over. All the selected houses were burnt down with no one inside left alive. Some people had died outside their houses, cut down with machetes. There was a stink of burnt human flesh and burning wood in the air.
The men went from house to house checking that everybody was dead. When they were satisfied that their work had been completed successfully they left.
Morning next day.
Desto’s father staggered off the sofa where he had slept after coming home drunk after the meeting. He had come home late and he hadn’t seen Desto. He went to look for Desto in the bedroom. The bed that they shared was made. He wondered if Desto had already woken up and gone to school. He checked the time it was 10 am.
‘Desto is probably in school,’ he thought. But when then he saw Desto’s uniform which was untidily bundled at the edge of the bed, he got worried. Desto only had one pair of uniforms which he wore all week and then washed over the weekend. His school bag was also under the bed. The dishes for their breakfast were also still there unwashed.
Having a premonition that something was very wrong; Desto’s father went to look for him outside. Then he smelt the burning flesh and timber. Their house was at the edge of the village. He started going to the neighbours to ask if they had seen Desto. They said they hadn’t. Then a young boy told him he had seen Desto the day before with a group of boys coming back from the river. He said he had seen him walking with Guna.
Desto’s father run into the village seeing all the destruction and the dead bodies that had started attracting flies. Guna’s house was in the middle of the village. It was the biggest house because Guna’s father was the richest man in the village. Women were wailing, crying for the dead.
The house had been burnt down. It stood charred, a shell of what it used to be. Desto’s father run into the house. There was a body of a male at the door. It had been burnt but there were also machete cuts on the body. Inside the house, there were bodies in the sitting room next to the window. There was a woman who seemed to have died protecting something.
Desto’s father pushed her body aside. There were the two boys Desto and Guna, hugging each other, dead. Their flesh had sort of burnt into each other and so they were stuck together. Their faces hadn’t been burnt. Guna’s mother had protected them with her body, taking the heat and trying to save them.
Desto’s father sat down and wept. He had lost his only son. He ran out like a mad man and started screaming. Villagers stopped what they were doing to look at him.
A man came from the crowd and walked to Desto’s father. He said, “Our commander, our leader, why do you cry for our enemies? They are all dead as you commanded. We did a good job. Nobody was allowed to escape not even the children, they are all dead. Now we can get what they stole from us. It is time to celebrate”
Desto’s father ran off into the forest. He took a rope and hang himself.
Be careful because what you sow you will reap.
— The End —
There’s a children’s storyteller who used to be on TV. He once told a story and the moral was “if you do good you do to yourself. If you do bad you do to yourself.” And it’s true.
This story on genocide was inspired by the 2007/2008 post-election violence.