The Sentinel of Ubuntu
By Evans Kinyua (Kenya)
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My name is Muntu Mtu. Both names refer to the ‘state of being human’. I am two entities in one. Sometimes I am a spirit, neither here nor yonder; invisible and non-existent to all. But when I wish, I assume a visible body corporate, just like all of my people of Ubuntu land. I am the living Sentinel for the people of Ubuntu, otherwise known as Watu, or the people of Ngai, He- that- lives- on- the- face- of-the- full- moon. They have dwelt on the land of mountains, rivers, grasslands and forests for thousands of years, indeed since time itself became.
They were happy people then, extracting from the earth the bounty bestowed on them by Ngai, wanting for nothing, dancing all night, their bellies distended with good living. Their drums could be heard from miles away, joyful rhythms praising the munificence of Ngai, God of all that is. Yes, those were the days. Not any more.
I am thinking these sad thoughts in the delivery room of the Wenye-nchi hospital, an opulent establishment that is off limits and off pocket for the people of Ubuntu. The theatre is busy today, the doctors unrecognizable in their green scrubs and masks, solemn and urgent in their movements.
They are delivering the child of Lord Delachomley Jr, scion of renowned land thief and the ‘owner’ of a quarter of Ubuntu land. His favorite pastime is taking potshots with a rifle at poor Ubuntu peasants foraging for game meat at ‘his’ expansive ranch, he has killed a few and got away with it, with arrogant impunity.
Says Doctor Anthony Silverware, the leader of the medical team.
He is handed the surgical blade instrument with which he proceeds the episiotomy (to make the vagina wider ) of the mother-to-be. She has labored for too long, and it is apparent that she cannot take the size of the baby through that small aperture. What am I, the Sentinel of the people of Ubuntu, doing in this cold, sterile room that reeks of disinfectant? After all, I am the ambassador of Ngai, not a doctor.
I am witnessing the birth of the fourth generation of an Ubuntu monarchist, to satisfy myself that the first cry of the spawn is the same as that of the newborns of my watu, those born in dumpsites and sewers of Ubuntu. This research I shall report to Ngai, with my supplication to him to heed the prayers and tears of his people. Today I am in my spirit self, unseen and invisible.
“Massage her labia,”…!
Dr. Silverware instructs the pediatrician, who expertly kneads the majora, gently applying some lubricants. Even so, the woman on the delivery table screams loudly as yet another wave hits and her vagina dilates another inch.
It is distressing, and I cower in my corner.
I know the pain she is feeling, although I cannot feel it. I am only allowed to feel the pain of the mothers of Ubuntu. Time without number I have felt that pain, while helping the mothers of Ubuntu to carry forth their burden, right there in the slums, sewers and dumps, on many a dark night. Statistics report that it is a miracle that the children survive at all. They don’t mention me, the Sentinel.
But how could they, of one they have never seen?
- I think she is in pain. The morphine is wearing off. A little more..!
Dr. Silverware tells the anesthetist.
He turns to the husband, the great Lord Delachomley Jr, and says: “Hold her hand. She needs all your support now. It will help her through the ordeal.”
Tall, gaunt and aristocratic, Lord Delachomley, looking uncharacteristically out of his element, holds her hand and whispers some sweet nothings.
She is lucky. The mothers of Ubuntu are usually alone at childbirth, their husbands out there scouring for scraps and leavings to feed their children. Sometimes it is a fruitless search, as the Wenye-Inchi (self declared owners of the land) often gobble up everything, leaving not a pitiful scrap in sight.
The women understand, and they have learnt to push alone when the water breaks, and to cut the umbilical with rusty blades that previously cut many unsanitary things. But I, the Sentinel, is always there, unseen and unknown, to ease their pain.
-“Here comes the head…!”
Dr. Silverware announces triumphantly, inserting his gloved fingers in her pink vagina and holding the top of the baby’s head, which indeed is showing through the minora. A final spasm hits Mrs. Delachomley and she lets rip with the shrillest scream yet. Her scream sounds just like the screams of the poor Ubuntu women that I have mid-wifed in my long career as a Sentinel, spanning two thousand years, for which I am glad. Because I am here to discover if there are any physiological differences between the women of the monarchists and the Ubuntu hoi polloi that could account for the latter’s wretchedness.
The baby slithers out with an audible pop, into the waiting arms of the gynecologist. Lord Delachomley Jr looks on with a stupidly befuddled expression, quite contrary to his otherwise dominating, superior mien. At this moment, he too looks not unlike the millions of Ubuntu fathers, in their tattered and filthy garb, witnessing this oldest of all Ngai’s miracles. He -that -lives –on- the- face –of- the- full- moon created the first life, man and woman, and directed that henceforth they shall propagate without his help, through sweet pleasure and horrible pain. And here, in this room today, I see that the monarchists too, experience the pleasure and the pain. Alas, my people are not deficient.
The baby issues forth a new-born wail, its senses registering the entry into this new, cold place. Again, it reminds me of the first cry of a million black Ubuntu babies, similar in its indignation and fury, but different in that the monarchists’ babies are immediately wrapped in fluffy wool to ward off the chill of our world, while the Ubuntu infants are lucky to have a dirty hand-me-down shawl for comfort.
They have to learn to live with the cold, metaphorically speaking, that awaits them for the rest of their miserable lives.
-“She’s all yours…!”
Dr. Silverware tells the pediatrician, handing over the baby girl. The pediatrician cleans the baby with a cloth dipped in warm water, and wraps her in, yes, a beautiful fluffy woolen blanket. He hands the baby to the proud father, who gingerly accepts the bundle, handling the infant in his strong, hacienda calloused hands like golden Easter eggs. In the meantime, out of the perspiring mother’s gaping flower slithers the placenta, crimson with blood. An attendant puts it in a bowl pre-prepared with disinfectant and commences to clean the mother.
The placenta will be incinerated. Had this epic event been in Ubuntuland, the neighborhood mongrels, flea infested scavengers of post-natal remains (including their own) would see to it that the placenta would immediately join the food chain. The baby too, if I, the Sentinel, is not around to take care of things. But I am always around.
It may sound morbid to you, but I have also attended countless death events, stood by as the subjects breathed their last, my objective to learn whether the souls of my people are indeed black like their earthly complexions, as opposed to those of other races. Ditto the results of long hours spent in operating theatres of countless hospitals, specifically heart surgery cases, to determine if the color of watu hearts is red, or the reviled black.
My finding; all souls are the same, wispy and feathery, indeterminate in color, and all human hearts are red, from the crimson liquid they pump. But it is more gratifying attending a birth.
My job is done here. I intend to flash back to my humble abode in the midst of my watu in Ubuntu, and note down in my diary the observations of the morning. I make a note of everything I see during my research, for my date with He- that- lives -on –the- face –of- the- full-moon is nigh, and I have to report my findings. I meet with him every hundred years to report and take instructions for the next century. One hundred years is but a blink, for He is timeless, He is time itself.
Unknown, unseen and unheard, even by the people I defend, I have gone about my thankless task for centuries. But I fear I am losing my faith, for everywhere I look, the people are losing the battle. They have become the invisible people, like me, unseen and unheard.
The Ubuntu political elitists, rather than standing up for them, refer to them as Wanainchi wa kawaida (the common people), euphemism for ‘useless rabble that watches events unfold but are never part of the events themselves.’
The elitist politicians commit this dehumanization in daylight, in full glare of cameras. From daises around the land, they shout the insult into microphones, spittle flying from their gaping mouths, bloodshot eyes fixed at nothing and nowhere in particular, selling empty platitudes to millions of rumbling and empty stomachs.
Among my many responsibilities, I am also counsel and executor for the forefathers of Ubuntu, holding their estate in probate for their unborn; the estate includes land that teems with game and incredible bio-diversity, great wealth beneath it, beautiful the flora and fauna, a postcard tableau, unsoiled by industry and greed, incredibly pristine. I keep a running account, a balance sheet, of these assets, including the safety deposit boxes and numbered accounts held by the monarchists and Ubuntu elitists in foreign lands. Nothing can be hidden from the Sentinel, and therefore nothing can be hidden from Ngai, He- that- lives –on- the- face –of- the- full- moon. My balance sheet also includes, to the last cent, all the wealth that the ancestors of the imperialists looted from the land and the riches created by the sweat of Ubuntu people in the plantations and factories in far off climes.
Ubuntuland is derided as the cursed land by those who made it so, and the land of bounty by the clique of kleptocrats that rule over it. I have decided that this time, I will inform He- that –lives- on- the- face –of- the- full- moon that enough is enough. I can’t do this anymore, Master.
I organize my reports and teleport to the rendezvous for our AD 2100 appointment. We always meet at a different location every time. Today we are meeting at the zenith of Wondrous X, the sterile, serene little planet in the fifth dimension. Ngai, He- that- lives- on- the- face- of- the- full- moon, is already waiting. His presence is as terrifying as it is radiant, his countenance inscrutable and inexpressible as ever. All the light of the universe manifests in His visage, and I avert my eyes lest I go blind that instant. His voice carries from all directions at once, seeming to come from within his swirling essence, and from without too.
-“My people’s Sentinel, Muntu Mtu, what do you have to say to the heavens..!”
The voice (s) asks, the booming sound reverberating and echoing across many universes.
The voice continued…: “Your children continue to suffer, Father. It is heart rending. My soul bleeds for them. You have done nothing to stop it for five hundred years. You are long on promise and short on delivery. I can’t continue any more. The fruitlessness and futility of my job dejects me.”
“Where is your faith, Sentinel?”
“Forgive me, Father, but I now wish to present my closing argument for their case. I will be succinct.”
“$ 52,267,000 hectares of their land occupied, $ 3,248, 643, 221.10 in stolen funds, $ 50, 245, 889, 276. 70 being loss of life arising from slavery, – I did my best to value each life-, forced labor-two million seven hundred and twelve slaves carted from the shores of Ubuntu and illegitimate extraction of resources.
These figures are exclusive of interest. The people of Ubuntu developed the world, and they were underdeveloped in equal proportion. The debtors list runs a kilometer, the creditors nil.”
“No one is blameless in this distortion of justice.”
“What do you mean, Father.”
“I blessed Ubuntu far more than any other land. Land without end; mile upon mile of exquisite firmament. The best climate, rich soils, minerals in the ground and greater wealth on it. But you see, the people are divided, each striving for individual gratification and against the other. That is why they have meaningless little wars going on all over the land. They must work together. The collective progress, Sentinel, ultimately translates to individual progress.
The rest of the world learnt that lesson, while the people of Ubuntu continue to slaughter each other and scramble for personal gain, like hyenas to a kill.” When he speaks, Father’s essence radiates great energy, like a million lightning strikes, coils of blue rays of energy writhing within the mirage of His being. I kneel in supplication, flailing in fear yet basking in the wonder of his warmth.
“I have been doing some research to discover if the Watu are an intractably inferior species, as claimed by some Ku Klux Klans. I have not found any evidence to support the hypothesis.”
“I am glad you did. Sentinel, there are no people more blessed. Seventy per cent of the earth’s gene pool resides in Ubuntu. You are as likely to find the tallest person as you would find the shortest in Ubuntu, the most intelligent and the most stupid, the fastest and the slowest.”
“Even so, they have suffered for far too long. To cap it all, they are regarded as the denizens of evil, their black skins loathed and derided in equal measure. Ubuntuland is referred to as the dark land, the land of disease and pestilence, death and oblivion unlimited. I fear that they are suffering triple jeopardy, if there is such a thing.”
“Do not fear, Sentinel. Their suffering is coming to an end. You will be amazed at the resilience of the watu, and their power of regeneration. I know that my past inaction, my reluctance to interfere, has been perplexing to you. But sometimes, Sentinel, even well meaning intervention can be intrusive. As harsh as it may sound, the world is alive and in constant flux. Species are winning, losing, rising, falling, advancing and regressing. The people of Ubuntu needed to suffer the ignominy of being at the bottom of the barrel to learn from it.”
“What about the corrupt Ubuntu elite and the imperialists who have wrought so much infamy? They are the predators, and the watu the prey. What is their fate?”
“That is the responsibility of The Other, Prefect of the Dark. They have had their heaven, and hell eternal awaits them.”
“Father, I am not concerned about the afterlife. I plead the case of the children who are living in this epoch, the desolate and innocent babies that are born to their similarly desolate parents. I want them to have their heaven while still on earth too.”
“Your compassion touches my heart, Sentinel. I have picked six people who will lead the people. Like Moses and the Israelites, they shall lead the people to the Promised Land, where deprivation and want will be banished forever. The year will be 2050. The six are not yet born, so you must identify them, guard them from danger, and guide them through their early years”
“Who are the six and what will they do that others have not been able to do the last five hundred years?”
“Remember these names; Allan Moshoe, Cannaud M’Mbu, Catherine Somma -Toure, Kenneth Abwao, Dr. Adam Ndabali and Alphonce Karikawa. Some of them are not yet born, some are in their teenage, distributed all over Ubuntu. Note in your diary the year 2050, in the city of Cairo. The deliverance of Ubuntu will commence then, led by the six. Go now, before it is too late. As you know, one minute spent with me is equivalent to ten years on earth.”
Happy that at last there appeared to be hope for Ubuntu, I teleport back to earth, instantaneously arriving in a smoky little shack, in a sprawling tenement in Southern Ubuntu.
In the shack there is a woman laid prone on a mat on the earthen floor, a strong black woman in the final stages of labor. A traditional mid wife is attending to her.