TEARS OF THE SUN By Danstan Wasobokha Based on a true Story
A massive object hit the administration block and dug a huge hole rising a cloud of dust and flames that engulfed the whole school. Some students fell to the ground, some fainted, while others just lost strength at the sight of the blast. Some got up immediately and ran to unknown destinations in a bid to save their lives. The stampede created more chaos. These preceded continuous exchange of fire and a series of blasts. Amidst this confusion, I managed to get back to my feet and take off towards my home.
Reaching the final stretch towards home, I saw a thick dark smoke emanating from our house. I slowed down and stopped dead. Screams filed the air. Men, women and children were in hysteria. They sought to rescue their souls from the opposite direction. A series of explosions followed deafening my ears. I resolved to follow the crowd towards a nearby military base. This was the only hope left for us.
In the camp, soldiers would sexually molest ladies in return for favors. Being of light complexion, I would apply soot on my skin to tarnish it and avoid being associated with the ruling class of the radical regime. Residents in the camp would gang up and butcher such people. I had to stay awake all night and day as I awaited my imminent death. At least I wanted to be conscious when it strikes.
The 4th of May, the year 1980 was the peak of civil turbulence and turmoil as a result of the Ugandan coup d’etat. The fateful evening, surrounded by ghastly tension and frightening wails that stabbed and sliced the icy and apprehensive air, 33 internally displaced people sat in a small tent. We submitted our last supplication to the almighty as we awaited death. This
is where the universal sagacity that shows when you know that you may die very soon sets in. Bouts of piety replaced my nascent and cold indifference to salvation. My new “normal” became the fragile, short and unseemly future that now lay before me. Normally, death is thought to be the preserve of the aged and the sickly. When you know, however, that it lurks in the corner, priorities fall into place. No more dreams of becoming a diplomat, or the more primal escapades of youth.
As the night became quieter and darker; hunger, thirst and fatigue engulfed our somnolent bodies. I had tucked myself inside a heap of mattresses next to the entrance. We had stayed inside the tent in intense trepidation for four consecutive days without food or water. All we had at that moment was each other.
There is a characteristic anxiety that grips you just as you wait for something to happen. It shakes your foundation and enthralls you until you finally are certain about an incident. I heard a peculiar distant sound. It was like incessant shuffling of innumerable feet sweeping through the road towards the tent, I was terrified. I struggled to restrain my panting. A round of bullets were fired continuously for about five minutes leaving the tent in tatters. I lost track of everything.
I was awakened by a suffocating smell of lynched bodies, burning mattresses and explosives. I discovered I was covered in corpses. My uniform was wet covered in blood oozing from the corpses which were terribly mutilated by gunshots and machetes. Others were burnt beyond recognition leaving black structures resembling used firewood. This too, wasn’t terrifying anymore.
The formerly wealthy neighborhood with palatial homes had turned into a lifeless stretch of land with heaps of dead bodies and craters covered in heavy clouds of smoke. This is when reality sank. No home! No school! No family! No Neighbor! I laughed it off at first. Maybe it was just a nightmare. Such incidences required a certain grace and a tad of sensitivity in manifestation. Nature didn’t care about my feelings, age, gender or circumstances. It pronounced my fate with reckless abandon. So I watched and waited. The sort of facts I’d rather never know. In my innermost thoughts though, I feared this could be reality. But I wanted things to remain the way they were. To hold on to the dreams I so cherished now that I was a young, beautiful and intelligent teenage girl.
I burst another bubble of laughter hoping the incidence would vanish with it. It didn’t. An awkwardness hung thick and low when I realized nothing was changing. It was not a dream after all. But it still did not add up. There was not a single miasma of sin that could be traced in my conduct in the traditions. I neither walked in company of the evil nor sat in the council of the wicked. Besides, such misfortunes were ‘tokens’ for the crooked, I thought, God gives such to the lost sheep as a ‘Tax’ for their rebellion. Not to his obedient children.
I heard a man coughing beside me. I uncovered him and helped him get to his feet. That’s when I realized that his left shoulder and arm were chopped off. It was hard to recognize his face but the voice confirmed that this was our district commissioner. As I helped him to his feet, he only smiled. With his last gasps of breath he said, “*Mukhana
wase, khwatsile.Ukha esasula ta.Bakane nga Nibali,lwe khuba iwe niye khusibila khwelidembe,*” “Our daughter, we’re gone! Don’t revenge. Love them unconditionally. You’re our last hope for peace.”
Another heavy blow to my soul. All villagers, including my host family may be dead. Surely the grim reaper must be mean to me. It snatched everyone without notice. Now its visit to me seemed imminent. This left me listless. It was the single nastiest, most excruciating emotional torture life ever rewarded me with. The thought that life could be indeed ‘taxing’
me already was unbearable. At least not yet. I was too young a servant to fall to a master’s pangs of anger. Amidst tears, I fell to my knees and made a sacrifice of tears to the almighty.
The district commissioner’s words defined my path in life henceforth. My purpose in life is to love everyone unconditionally, forgive those who wrong me and create a peaceful world in the heart and in my society at all times. Consequently, a distinct form of rationalizing peace descends upon my soul. It purges me of all bitterness. Things become lucid more than ever. I become scathingly honest with myself. Every second that passes by reminds me of my motionless travel towards timelessness and the need to pursue this purpose. I pray more, breathe fully and thank more. I am grateful for family, friends, strangers and enemies. So I bless those who spared my life.
Had I had more time, I would have cursed those who wounded my soul. That luxury of time I cannot afford though, I’d rather forgive and forget.But most of all, I appreciate peace. For the sake of the helpless, innocent kid who isn’t limited by ethnicity, color, decent or greed for power, I dedicated my whole life henceforth to educating refugees, internally displaced people and victims of war and skirmishes on the need for peace. For the sake of a girl with big dreams of becoming a pilot, a doctor or a diplomat and save her community from effects of bad leadership, I use my limited resources to help the victims get access to educational facilities, to keep their dreams alive, alongside giving guidance and counselling sessions to help them heal emotional wounds and find tranquility within themselves and reflect it on their society.
The world may thrive on scientific discoveries, theories, wealth, power, politics and dissensions of all kind, but without peace, this is vanity. When we attach too much importance to such selfish pursuits we neglect the fundamental principles of humanity. Consequently, oppression and animosity prevails. I would love to live and see a peaceful world free from human greed, but if need be, I will die advocating for it.
Wishing you all, a weekend of Peace. From Danstan [This story above is my mother’s story, which I wanted to share with you all.]