undergrowth was dense under the oil palm plantations, and that’s
where we hid. Further along the beach the broad leaved plants
seemed to bask in the glory of the sun while its intense rays
reflected off the white sandy beaches; funny how Mother Nature
The beach was now
deserted, even the water seemed to have run away, and there was
no sign of the heat simmering.
There was melancholy
among us as we sat on the protruding grass and devil thorns,
hoping they didn’t find us.
It had been seven days
since the fighting started and we hadn’t gone home since. At
first the attacks had started out as a rumour, and some had said
that there was nothing like the ‘Kayabombo’ but word spread as
whispers through the
Villages. My late grandpa
usually said in Swahili that whatever is said, must be there. It
had caused fear and a sense of anger among us. We were angry
that we were being evicted from our homeland by the unseen
rebels who attacked at night.
That afternoon, there
had been the four of us hiding on the beach. Tom, twelve, my
eldest son, had been laughing loudly, often throwing stones at
his siblings, and at times challenging them to mock fights.
"Stop it Tom, you're
going to draw attention to us," I cried, covering my face with
my hands. Tom just shrugged, ran away and continued throwing
stones; this time aiming at the coucal birds which had been
perched up on the palm tree leaves above us.
"How long are we going
to stay here? And where is papa? Has he gone to chase them away
from our house? Me, I am hungry and I want to go home." Marrieta,
six, my youngest daughter whined. (Don’t overuse the word
Kilumbwazi, Tom’s twin brother had shrugged, "Go home if you
want, or you can go to the sea and begin catching some fish and
Tom came running toward us and said he had seen some people
with machetes and axes, but I ignored him. He was always a
crywolf, and no one ever believed him.
Marrieta jumped to her feet and slapped the dirt off her
flower-print lesso. "Go away with your lies. They would never
find us here…” she paused and lowered her eyes at me. “Would
I shook my head, “ no”.
Kilumbwazi broke in, "coward… if they came, they’d
better carry you with them... you and Tom… isn’t that right
could reprimand him, Tom jumped in.“I would wish to give you
another black eye so that now you have two black eyes. Seems
your friend papa didn’t give you enough a beating..." Tom said,
"And you. What made you burn your arm the other day, stealing
some stew from a boiling pot?" Karisa shot back, causing the
rest of them to laugh and start chanting "mwizi wa nyama," or
It was nice to laugh,
too, after a week of worry.
Tom’s face turned red and became stern, "Shut up all of you!"
He batted a small pebble at them. I yelled at him to stop, and
he lowered his head in guilt.
He looked up. “Mama… I have seen them again. There is one coming
our way now."
"Listen here, Tom!" I warned. “I will not have you
scare us all. If you are having nightmares during the day then
that’s your problem, but me, I have enough problems to worry
Tom remained mum for a while and walked away a couple minutes
later. Just as I was about to tell him to come back his shrill
squeal cut through the air. There on the beach, wandering up,
was a mean-looking, tall man adorned in ornamental regalia with
a machete in his right hand. The children sat frozen, eyes on
Tom, who was now running along the beach, still screaming,
running further away from us. The man began running after him
and Marrieta began to scream at the top of her lungs, “Leave my
The man heard her and
was now coming toward us. As he drew near he started slashing at
the undergrowth with murderous intent.
Tom disappeared from our sight and everyone fell silent, the
slashing of the machete and our heavy breathing became the only
The man gave
up after being warned by his colleagues that the police were
coming our way. He ran off. We sighed in relief, but we
still had to find Tom. We combed the beach for a while, but
later gave up and left the search to the police.
It has been over a
month now, and still no sign of Tom or his papa, but we are
still hopeful. Every night, when I lie alone at night, I still
see my husband’s face in my visions. I also see Tom’s face
standing next to him, and Marrieta is always asking when Tomato,
as she used to call him, is coming back. I have no answer for