It is such a devastating scene a father looking at his children at home when he is at his weakest unable to be of help to them. Unable to stretch out his hands to hug them as he always does. It is more painful having unwanted escorts into your own house. As if the word ugly does not have enough letters, they give you instructions “not to limp” before your family because they too know that their deeds are wicked and there is no rest for the wicked. It bothers them too causing unrest that they feel they have to give one more instructions even when they are under his roof.
This may sound farfetched until you turn pages of the Banana Republic, an account of Kakwenza Rukirabashaija’s time in incarceration.
Life has a tendency of getting hard. Events beyond one’s imagination can break them beyond a point of self-recognition. In a world where you grow up being told to pursue your dreams, it is not necessarily a given that in the pursuit of your dreams, everything will go according to plan. There are people whose plan is to frustrate your plans. To Kakwenza, it is his writing craft that turned out to be treasonous. He was arrested for publishing his novel, the Greedy Barbarian by the security officials who arrested but without the detail as to why, a gap that the author takes the liberty to exploit.
Politicians, over the years, have not rubbed well the backs of writers. Writers have a tendency of recreating the day to day scenes of life through relatable lenses. That is the trouble with art. Look at poetry for example, it gives the poets a license to tear apart and reassemble words and language in general to fit a particular style. Drama is said to be a mirror of society yet some times the audience does not feel comfortable with the kind of society that is mirrored. You cannot eat your cake and have it. When you choose what you want to see, it does not mean that that is all there is. The uncomfortable position which sets a writer to burn the midnight oil and as they ink their emotions away on paper is because they are choosing to write what everyone else sees and what is being deliberately left unseen. One of the results from such works of art is the story of this book. It is a story of pain, fear and sorrow.
Some wounds in life never heal. To be picked from your house to go to an unknown destination, to be abandoned in a place whose access you can barely tell because your eyes were blindfolded, to be kicked, caned and water boarded all are inhumane prices the author of this book painfully endures for expressing his views the best he thought how.
However, like one playwright said; long is not forever. Situations have ways of changing and you find a perpetrator turned the victim. This book is call to all of us to put our appetite with power to a test. As we draw closer to dining with power, may we not lose obuntu. Obuntu is what that lady does when she serves Kakwenza a cup of hot porridge on his first morning in incarceration. It is what the guard does when he, against the orders of his bosses, uncuffs him from the hanging position to sleep among other prisons. Obuntu is the lady at the CID office in Iganga who picks money from her wallet to buy this beaten and tortured man bottles of water. It is the officer at the prison who makes sure he gets a new and cleaner uniform.
In all circumstances of life, we should always strive to remember our nakedness before we had power and how likely we shall still be when it is taken away. Chances are it will still be the same nakedness. Like the opening poem says; we all stand warned.
Publisher: Kisana Consults
Cover Design: Chris Atukwasize Ogon