Celebrating East African Writing!
Written by Mathew Wasambo
Isaiah Ngurue Fisi stared at the magistrate with no slight hint of remorse on his face. He had anticipated that the sentence he would receive would be a slap on the wrist. It was September 10th 1969. The events of the past two months flashed in front of his emotionless face and he almost smiled only to remember the battery of journalists pointing cameras at him. “If this were pistols, I would be dead man by now.” He thought to himself. Finally the magistrate shook him out of his reverie by shouting his name.
“Yes your majesty.” Isaiah replied meekly. The magistrate cleared his throat and continued.
“This court has hereby found you guilty of the murder of honourable Twiga Mbuga … The rest of the words trailed away like a radio losing its frequency. The only last part that hit him so hard like the magistrate’s gavel banging the table was … “you have been sentenced to death by hanging.”
Fisi could not believe the betrayal. “They had promised.” He whispered to himself. “Damn those bastards. I am not going down alone.” He raised his hand towards the magistrate asking for permission to speak. With a nod of his head, the magistrate motioned to him to speak. “What about the Big Man your honour?” he asked smiling.
The Big five sat silently in the state house lounge sipping traditional brew from long horns. The only sound that could be heard once in a while was the snapping of bones as His Excellency John Simba chomped on the roast goat ribs. He was aging and his four colleagues knew it. The once greedy snapping of the ribs had now turned it meek chomps like a baby hyena trying out its first meal. The white hair was unlike the black hair which he brushed backwards making it look like a lion’s mane 20 years ago. Vice President Joseph Ndovu and Minister for Internal Security – Retired General Nyati flanked his right side. Sergeant Tom Chui – Chief of Police and the robust Silas Kiboko – Simba’s body guard, flanked his left side forming a semi-circle with President Simba in the center.
“So, Mr. Fisi has now been dealt with.” Sergeant Chui threw in carelessly. The media have given up asking about his whereabouts and everyone believes that he faced the hangman’s noose.” He added while chewing on a piece of goat meat. He didn’t care. In fact, they all didn’t care anymore. The Lion was no longer the roaring lion he used to be. President Simba stared at Chui for a while. 20 years ago that stare would have made Chui bow down and apologise. But now, the fire in his eyes had turned into a sparkle of dying embers.
“Good.” The Lion replied with a weak distant voice as he stared at the portrait of the members of his cabinet hanging on the wall.
“But there is one more problem.” He didn’t utter a word and with a wave of his hand, he turned to General Nyati and motioned to him to continue from where he had left. Nyati smiled sarcastically as he cleared his throat. 20 years ago, this smile would have been noticed by the burning fire in the lion’s eyes and Nyati would have received a good tongue lashing. If the lion was in a foul mood a good whooping on the ministers behind would have wiped the silly smirk off Nyati’s face. He knew the Lion didn’t want to be quoted and that is the reason why he had handed over the task of explaining this.
“As we all know, one of our brothers attended Twiga’s funeral in Msitu Island 9 years ago. I understand this brother of ours was a very close friend of Twiga and rumors have it that he might just try and dig in to find out the truth.” He paused and took a sip from his horn. The lion was now almost half a sleep. 20 years ago he could down 2 liters of the brew and still be awake but those times were long gone.
“To be frank, this brother of ours is no one other than Josphat Kobe. He is not a stupid man. As you all know this fiery politician has been known to humiliate the government in public.” He said while pointing at the Lion.
“I understand he might be a problem so we have given the task to Sergeant Chui to tell us how He!” – at this point he raised his voice to emphasise on who the whole responsibility had been handed to – “will go about this issue.” He pointed to Sergeant Chui to stand up as the relay game of passing the baton continued.
Chui cleared his throat stood up and straightened his fake Abdulah Fazal suit. Just as he was about to speak, Vice President Ndovu ushered him to sit down. Feeling humiliated, Chui sat down reluctantly and took a sip from his horn.
“We believe in you Chui.” He said in slow voice full of wisdom.” We do not want any details. You have everything at your disposal.” He said pointing at the oblivious Kiboko chewing ravenously on a rib.
Chui nodded and looked at Kiboko. With a nod of his head he motioned to Kiboko and they stepped out of the room. The Vice President turned to talk to the President but The Lion was snoring loudly on his leather sofa.
JOSIAH KOBE BRUTUALLY MURDERED AFTER TERRIBLE TORTURE! Screamed the daily headlines. Josphat Kobe, renown politician and philanthropist was last seen alive at the Rexton Hotel, accompanied by President Simba’s bodyguard, Silas Kiboko onMarch 2, 1975. Several days later, Kobe’s remains were found by a herdsman, Alexander ole Sampei, in a thicket in the Songo Hills. Read the first paragraph of the news.
Citizens scrambled for that days copy and even the newsvendors had a hard time trying to follow the shocking news and at the same time trying to make sales. It was evident that this saga had brought division among the brother’s community. Citizens tried to talk in hashed tones because the security intelligence was on high alert. It was obvious. The fact that the sloppy Kiboko was the last one to be seen with Kobe got mouths talking and journalists penning about the government’s involvement.
The Big Five sat at the lounge silent in thought. Only this time Kiboko remained standing. Once in a while, the spats of raspy coughs from the Lion interrupted the silence. There was no traditional beer and it seemed no one had an appetite for roast ribs. Kiboko stared at his four brothers without showing any emotions. He knew that they would be lenient in punishing him considering the fact that he knew so much about this saga. The Lion sighed. His brothers were making age catch up with him rather fast. The Vice President as usual sat down without portraying his emotions.
“At least they have nothing to connect me with this.” He thought. “The old guy is in big trouble now.” He pictured himself sitting on that same chair barking orders. Sergeant Chui and General Ndovu sat calmly. They knew they were safe. Kiboko would definitely take the fall for this one. After a while, V.P Ndovu spoke.
“Thank you Kiboko. That was a job well done. You know the protocol. Follow it well and the rest will be left to Chui to cover up that slight mess.” He looked at him and pointed towards the two heavy oak doors. “You may leave now.” After Kiboko had left the room, Ndovu turned to Chui and told him. “You know what to do.” Chui stood up, straightened the same cheap suit and followed Kiboko.
The room was again silent. Suddenly as if awoken from a bad dream, the aging Lion stood up and hobbled slowly towards a wooden cabinet using the once revered cane and pulled out a plastic bottle. He took a horn and half-filled it with the brew from the plastic bottle. He took a sip and looked at Ndovu. For a while the flame seemed to have re-ignited again. He turned to Ndovu.
“You fool. He hissed. You are so blinded by my death and succession that you don’t see where the threat is coming from. Kobe was just a small thorn in the shoe. The real challenge is coming. And this time it is not from our community. He is from the same community as Twiga Mbuga. This people will unite and one day they will force the brotherhood out of power.” The calm Ndovu was now full ears. Even Nyati who never paid attention to the Lion was listening carefully. Suddenly the flame went off and the Lion returned to his old self. He laughed wobbled back to his sit and ordered Nyati to go order some roast meat from the States kitchen. Amazed but relieved, Nyati left smiling at the relish of roast meat.
The lion turned to Ndovu. “This young bespectacled scholar.” He paused. “What is his name?” He asked while waving around his cane trying to jog his memory.
“Who are you talking about sir?” Inquired Ndovu.
“The fellow from Nyar-Pok.” He replied. Clearly he knew who he was talking about but he didn’t want to mention the name.
“Ahhh Rob Mbuni. What about him?” Asked V.P. Ndovu.
Staring at the portrait of his cabinet ministers hanging on the wall, the Lion sipped his brew and in his neat British accent, he replied.
“He is the next thorn. And this thorn is bigger than you think.”