Africa and her Dirty Coups (part 2)

John Otim

*Excerpts from John Otim's forth coming novel, Strongman

On Thursday he picks his American degree. In a week or two he will be back in Africa. The excitement of seeing his parents, his sister, his two brothers, the anticipation was almost more than he could bear.

Once in Africa, they will launch a new magazine of culture, politics, and the arts. Black Horizon, they decided to call it. Launch date was set for November 22nd, just months away. They meant to make it big. Launch issue will glance back at Africa’s past, no futile exercise in nostalgia, it was not their game. The second issue engages contemporary Africa in a virtual cock fight. That was their style, no one will be spared, no stone will be left unturned, everything was up for debate and contestation. The magazine shall have correspondents from all over world. Funding! No problem, the outlook was wonderful.

The great Caribbean intellectual, the man who spoke with Leon Trotsky, alone in a room in Mexico, the famed author of the Black Jacobins, will be their first guest writer. For the second issue, V S Naipaul, the man who loved taunting Africa, shall provide the lead article. One must listen to Naipaul. “Even the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story!” The magazine shall be an open forum and a market place of ideas. The possibilities were intoxicating.

In future they plan to call on Ali Mazrui, the controversial titan of academia. Peter Nazareth, the Ugandan born writer and Iowa Professor of Literature will write for the magazine.

In the great hall, as the party and the merry making buzzed around him, a myriad of thoughts ran through his brains. And it was as if he wasn’t there. Even the presence of Clare, the angel that got missing from heaven, did nothing to rouse him. He was in a world of his own. And now from across the hall a friend hurried over to him. On his face were written “trouble” in bold letters. What could be the matter on this trendy night?

From a large screen at the far corner of the hall, the answer came through, loud and clear.

Breaking News! Breaking News!

“Reports are coming in of a military coup in the Mountain Capital. Till now one of Africa’s rare success story, the one country V S Naipaul once described as the only well-run country in Africa.” The voice said.

“Fighting has broken out between opposing factions of the armed forces. Hundreds are reported dead.” The voice said.

“We go live now to our correspondent in Central Africa, Caroline Cool. Caroline are you there?”

“Yes dear!”

“This is Caroline Cool, standing in front of what used to be the Parliament of this tiny landlocked Nation, now a smoldering shell of its former self. Smoke is still rising from the building as well as from several others across the city.

“These past twelve hours have seen scenes of truly horrendous violence. There is complete pandemonium.

“Hundreds, perhaps thousands have been killed. Men, women and children. Thousands more are wounded. Some, horribly! And no hospitals to take them in.

“As I speak, untold numbers are on the move. Men, women, children, voting with their feet, as they do in Africa.

“Columns of scantily dressed people, some mere toddlers, carrying on their bare backs what little they possess in this world, are headed for the safety of the rain forests. And there as we know too well, wild animals abound, huge man eating creatures!

“A little while ago I regretted my words the minute I spoke them. I let fly off about man eating lions. And a man took me up immediately.

“‘Madam!’ said he ‘In our country today it is better to encounter lions, than to meet a man on the road!’

“That is the scale of the tragedy here.  In the days ahead, without food, without shelter, without proper clothing, the condition of these poor people will become unimaginable.  

“The new military authorities have decreed martial rule and have imposed a dusk to dawn curfew, making matters infinitely worse. After what appeared an eternity of continuous barrage the noise from automatic weapon and shell fire have died down.

“As I speak an incredible sunset is in the works, a spectacular display of colors, hues, and shapes. God’s gift to a doomed land!  I hate to say this. Elton John was probably weeping for these people:

Don’t let the sun go down over me!

“It is an appeal that I am afraid will not be answered here tonight.

“And now, here in the Mountain Capital, the sun has gone down. Darkness has fallen, darkness so deep and complete as to be truly primordial. 

“My heart bleeds for these worm and friendly people, so trusting of us, foreigners. It is a trust I fear we do not deserve.

“From today on, wherever I may go in this world. I shall always carry in my heart memories of these warm and friendly people! To them I say, I will always love you!

Caroline Cool

BBC News

Mountain Capital”


Bittersweet memories

That is all I’m taking with me

So goodbye. Please don’t cry 4