MEMOIRS OF A FATAL HOLIDAY   
Abdullahi Dahir Moge(1)
March 09, 2008

‘She looked up to the sky
And wished to be with her children
…then remembering her last child
Gazed desperately into the horizon
And shouted a piercing sentence
Stop killing our children!
  Stop killing our children!!!’

Laila Yaghi, river of tears

Chapter one

Although Sheekh Maxamuud was mindful of the ferocity of the fury his verdict would entail amongst the faithful, he had no option but to announce the Ciid festivities for tomorrow. That he often digs into all ‘loopholes’ in the Holy Scriptures to shorten the holly month of Ramadan by an average of two to three days each year; has nothing to do with his chronic ulcers-contrary to the falsehood the young irresponsible Xerow spread.

Or so he wishes to believe. After all, why does he have to give a damn about the fabrications of the neophyte Xerow, who was upset because he felt his ‘mu’addin’ title, has gone to a relative of the Sheekh. Livid over this, he started the gossip that the Sheekh feigned illness in the first two days of the Ramadan; so that he is not told of the news of the entry of the holy month.

This maverick Xerow hasn’t quite attained the reaches of Erasmus’s ridicules and mocks against theologians in the praise of folly, but has all the marks of a ‘rebel’ in the making. Sheekh Maxamuud was fully aware of it, but was also confident he has solid religious grounds to declare tomorrow-Thursday, Ciid el-Fidri. He has a living witness.

Badal Garawle is a short, stout, and kind of dumpy looking man. God has not been gracious to him in good looks, humour or some other exceptional talent. That embitters him as he hardly finds his name in the domain of any sort of discussions in this small town in the Hawd. But the last two years were exceptionally good to him. Rather, he was good to himself. Last year, it was him who spotted the crescent, bishii, and was the sole eyewitness in the entire town. In every corner, people happily exchanged compliments of the Eid, blessing Badal.

As early as three decades ago, Osman Gacanlaw understood man’s vanity and his inherent penchant for attention; as is evident in his inspirational song: Inaan ahey nin mudan oo kara wixii uu maagaba,waa inuu magaaladda magacaygu gaadhaa. It is this proclivity for self-importance that catapults the desire in us to ‘be noticed’. Ambition follows; and like appetite for food, attention-seeking varies in degree among humans. However, it is invariably emblematic of all.

That night, a repeat of the rare moment of ‘grandeur’ and ‘acknowledgement’ was on Badal’s mind; when he tumbled forth to the stage next to the Imam in the Cisha prayers and swore that he has seen bishii again. Of course, both years, he would have been the last person to see it; even if a three-night moon was on a clear sky. He has a very bad sight. But who among them would not have lied to get a glimpse of attention, after years of seclusion and obscurity! He reasoned, as he shook off the tinge of guilt he felt inside for lying to the devout community.  

All the doubts, shouts, and recriminations that followed Sheekh Maxamuud’s edict; all the threats against Badal and insults hurled at him; and all the protest angry mobs took to his uncle- wiilkan aad adeerka u tahay maad umadda ka qabatid; were to no avail, in the end. Badal knew this was a passing annoyance. No other country has seen the moon; but the Sheikh was adamant: ‘inagga aragtina ku sooma, aragtina ku afura ayaa la ina yidhi.”

Several hours later as the day break; all the tea houses played Ciid songs from loud speakers hooked to their windows. Xasan Diriye has always been the favorite in this small town for such occasions.

“Maanta Cadar iyo aynu maaweel
 Isku maydhnoo Mushmushaaxnee
 Maalintaa weyn yaan la moogaan…”

Ciid revelers cheered and chanted to the song. As Badal strode to the prayers that morning, all the old women who saw him on his way waved their hands to him in appreciation. Shariifo Barni believes god has endowed this man with supernatural gift. Sidaa uun baa loogu daalici bisha ramadaan, bal Ilaahay amarkii she commented to the others with her. Saakin was full of disdain for his critics. Intaasaa loo quudhi la’yahay, oo rag magac sheegani meelahaa kaga caayaan baa la yidhi. Eedo Koraad was surprised: Alla dadku isu daranaa, cajaa’ib! Waa aakhiru sabaan, she said. The oldest women in the marching crowd knew why all this is happening to the poor man: tol buuna laheyn!

In the mud house of Amran, the jubilation was for one more reason. It was at the dawn of the same day that she finally delivered a healthy baby girl, after long hours of labouring. Nimco was born in a day of feast and happiness. Amran mulled adding iido as a suffix to the child’s name. Nimco’s father, Kaafi Dheere, has not yet come to the house, after he spent last night with friends. He stayed in a friend’s house, as midwives and women relatives occupied his house, to attend to his wife. In the morning, he went straight to Ciid prayers; and planned to buy drinks and clothes to the new-born baby later. He was told it was a girl.

Until now, Kaafi who is a lame man has escaped the suspicion of the Ethiopian military. However, the killing of six senior Ethiopian army intelligence officers last night in front of the plot of land where he sells imported second-hand clothes, by unidentified gunmen, muddied the waters.

A week ago, when two soldiers were ambushed and killed near the main motorized well in the center of the town, the army responded by heading straight to the house of the district chairman Cumar Dahir; and put ten bullets in his skull in front of his children. They later justified their actions in the joint security meeting with the ‘civilian’ administrators; stating they had ‘evidence’ of his involvement in the ambush. No one dared to question their ‘evidences’.

It is still unbelievable how Kaafi hadn’t heard of what virtually everyone in town knew about. That the army commander- first Lieutenant Abraha mentioned his name in a meeting; as the ‘number one’ conduit and supplier of information to the rebels. Almost everyone in town who heard of this news rushed to warn him.

The first was his elder brother, who as they finished the prayers whispered to him, “ha iga tagin intaan sunnaysanayo, hawl baan kula socodsiinee”. But Kaafi Dheere completely forgot this message as he limped off hurriedly to the main market to get supplies to the new mother and her baby. When his brother was done with prayers, and saw that he is not around, he dashed to the only market where he knew he will find him.

Chapter Two

Thirteen years later, when her uncle met the beautiful but sick Nimco-who was brought by her mother to his house so that he takes her to a proper Hospital, he saw the hollow in her eyes; created by the missed love of a lost father. Her mother had grown inexplicably old and was almost unrecognizable to him at first. While waiting for the result of Nimco’s chest x-ray, the nurse’s rather innocuous but silly question flashed back memories of her husband. ‘How many kilos did she weigh at birth?’ The nurse asked. Amran stared at her for a long period, consumed by a sweet reverie.

She was thinking about her first night with Kaafi. She always sheds tears in hilarious laughter when she recollects those tense moments. After the ceremony ended and everybody left, in that tiny room, she lowered the lantern and sat next to him. Thirsty and having waited for this prize for too long, he lunged forward onto her chest. She took his hands calmly, caressed a bit and rubbed his chest. Disregarding the disbelief in his eyes, she gently kissed his lips and cheeks. Unable to muster enough composure to utter a word- but disconcerted inside-he took her hands aside and went ahead with his rehearsed move.

It was only after he was relieved of his ‘passion’ that he asked; “waa maxay faraha, iyo carrabka iyo waxan aad is hor waddaa? Had it not been for the virginity he had ascertained beyond reasonable doubt, their marriage would have ended the same way it has started: fast. Mar hadduu ammaanku sugan yahay, waa caadi. That realization gave him the faith to respect his bride.

The next two nights she stopped making any foreplay to their love-making, aware of the harsh chide she received earlier. How dare she can! Admittedly, the last two nights were not as enjoyable as the ‘indecent’ first one, for Kaafi too. Yet, he was too conceited to raise this subject again. But, something interesting happened on the third night.

When she invitingly threw herself onto the mattress, he remained seated and said; “een, maxay aheyd, Amran. We are grown up people. An impregnable wall of confidentiality is mandatory for our marriage to succeed. Imika, hawshii iyada aheyd. Tii habeenkii u horeysay- take it up from where you left off. Af-keenuna waa isu ammaan. Since then, long romantic pushes and gentle ‘whips’ was an integral precursor of their sleep. What a time they had after that nervy start!

Amran grew up in Mogadishu, where her family fled to after the 1977 Ethio-Somali war. It is there where she completed her secondary school. Kaafi, in contrast was a dynamic student in jigjiga secondary school until the final year of his schooling. He was readying himself to write the national school leaving examination-and was hopeful of an excellent result-when his father succumbed to the cholera that broke out in his home town. His late father’s words ringed in his ears. Adiga uun baan kugu halleeyay reerkaas. His eight younger siblings have no one except him to support. That compelled him to start small business to raise them: selling second hand cloths.

Their love story was love at first sight. And after few weeks of epistolary love exchanges, both were confident enough to go for the sacred destiny. Amran was impressed with the intellect, humility and dutifulness of her man. He was sure of her decency and faithfulness. That is why he had been taken aback by that ‘imprudent’ initiative of her on the first night.

By the time Amran woke off her lapse of concentration and queried “maxaad I tidhi?”, the nurse was gone.
 
First lieutenant Abraha, the commander of the army, was in no mood for mercy or consideration. If they had to celebrate their ‘silly Ciid’, it is not my business, he thought. Indeed, if he has to teach them a lesson -on how hard losing a comrade is, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Last night as he oversaw the burial ceremony of the fallen Tigrayan compatriots, his heart bled. Someone will have to pay dearly! He is not a judge or a priest to take the time to ensure who is innocent or guilty! He is a soldier. And, a ‘fine’ one for that!

He addressed the over two-hundred men who were praying in garoonka, a vast area enclosed for Ciid prayers. These men were the last ones leaving the scene, having done their Salaad; when they were surrounded by three land cruiser pick-up cars full of soldiers. Stay put where you are; one soldier ordered-before Abraha majestically jumped out of the cabin of one of the cars. He made a speech.

“Listen! Ye sumale shimagilewooch (Somali elders!). Last night six of our bravest fighters -flag-bearers- of the “generation that rocked mountains”, who played pivotal role in defeating the ‘cannibal’ Derg army, were killed by your sons. I don’t care if they are called URLF, or GST, or Altaxaad or Al-mubaarakat! I am in no mood to indulge in etymology of weird acronyms and Arabic nouns. They are all Somali’s. You know them and you supply information, money and moral support to them. Now, I give you an ultimatum: produce the killers right here, or no one is walking from this sun alive.”

He was not finished. “When one of your own is killed by another, you find out and take revenge or settle the issue through reparations. When one of our men is killed, all of a sudden you play deaf and dumb. That is not going to work anymore.”

After ‘soaking up’ the sun for nearly three hours -with Abraha taking shade under one of the vehicles, one frail old man stood and spoke, trembling. ‘I think we have seen many governments before. We have also witnessed similar incidents. But this is the first time that, on a day of mammoth significance to us, we are forced to sit under the sun and confess ‘ crimes’ which a) we don’t know who did b) we haven’t done and c) even if we knew, we could have done nothing to stop it.’

The old man was agitated. ‘Is this fair? What kind of justice is this? What kind of humans are you when you don’t respect men in their seventies and eighties who just concluded a tough holly month; and for your information haven’t eaten since this morning? It is already three pm and our children are waiting for us to share the ciid with them. Order your ‘intelligence’ to investigate and let us go to our homes.’

Kaafi Dheere was lucky to have left earlier. He bought stuff to his wife and child; but decided to chat with revelers before lunch. He left the items he bought with the shop, telling him that he will collect sometime in the afternoon. He went straight to Cabdiwaaxid’s restaurant where camel meat was the day’s ‘special’ dish. Cabdiwaaxid is also his neighbour. He is in his early twenty’s; and the manager of the restaurant. The owner is his wife, Xalimo Naadis; who is older than him by about ten years. That age difference is the cause of some bitter disagreements at times.

Like, two months ago. They returned from the wedding ceremony of Cabdiwaaxid’s elder brother who married a teenager. Amid the feast and exultation, Cabdiwaaxid was chanting loudly to all songs, obviously happy for his brother. But things took a nasty face when he and Xalimo returned home. No sooner had they entered into their house than she took a kettle from the compound and hit his head. He had to be stitched three times to stop the bleeding. He thinks he heard her angry words, seconds before he got the hit. “Yaad u duur xulaysay, when you were screeching wali waa carruurro waa laan curdina oo!”

Xaliimo thought he has done that deliberately to embarrass her in front of the crowd at the wedding. These kinds of misunderstandings are common in their home; but love is not in short supply, as well. Leona Lewis’s bleeding love, it is.

Cabdiwaaxid told him, about last night’s incident-which Kaafi already knew about; but not that some soldiers came to the restaurant half-an-hour ago looking for him. He thought they may have been looking for him to grab few jeans trousers from the latest consignment of huudheyd he received; before it is opened for sale. They do that quite often.

Chapter Three

Mo’alin Mowlid teaches Quraan to Amran and three other girls from the neighborhood. He loves one of them-Sacdiya Buur. Perhaps that is why, more recently, he has been cherry-picking on his wacdi after the lessons. Favourite topics of the month before the Ramadan hovered more around couple’s intimate moments. Haaaa, xaasikiinu waa beertinna oo kale, so you can play with them in whichever way that pleases you, he said twice in a week. ‘Kolkay dumarku dhiiga leeyihiin, they are exempted from certain duties’, he reminded them several times. Subconsciously, he will utter these words, as a reaction to a growing sensual desire inside. He had decided to talk to Sacdiya about marriage sometime soon.

But, even Mo’alin Mowlid had not repeated his predictable lines on this Thursday afternoon. After he blessed the new born baby, and thanked Allah for the safe delivery of Amran, he unusually spoke about what is being talked about in town: That Kaafi will be arrested tonight. ‘Macalin, casharka noo wad; dadka cisha walba waa la xidhaaye’, the girls told him one after another. He thought that they were missing that ‘erotic’ subject. ‘Alla dumarku inkaaranaa’, he chuckled. Of course, Amran was not there, but none of the girls wanted to spoil her day by spooking her with unverified rumors; when they visited her later.

And when they did tell her of what Mo’alin Mowlid told them-it was casually. “Yuu ka maqlay" Amran asked, surprised that Mo’alin, uncharacteristically, was having ears for political rumors. “Yuu ka maqli lahaa? manaam baa lagu tusaye” the ladies kidded. Then they jumped the topic and started a new thread: “ina Abshir waa loo soo fadhiisanayaa baa la yidhi”. The discussion reached the point of evaluating the candidate: “He is a good working man, those who know him said; although a bit “old”.

Mo’alin Mowlid is a disciplined man who commanded moral authority; and he was held with high esteem by the community. The only day he felt abused was when one useless Jaadle (khat seller) tried to mock him; as Mo’alin was preparing taxliil for a sick boy. The Jaadle stormed into the small compound, and on sight of the religious man; commented “oo maanta macal maclinkii baa joogee” trying to be funny for the benefit of the ladies around. He then sang a line from Mohamed Moge’s timeless waxaan tagay shacbaankii.

 “La sharaxay qardhaastii, sheekhi gacanta ii geli,
  Wixii shiinna lagu qoray, ma shirabin qardhaastii,
  Ma shirabin qardhaastii, ma shirabin qardhaastii…”

Mo’alin was angrier at the attempt by this ‘evil’ man to defile the value of his god-given skills, than the intrusion into his profession. He was depressed; but chose to ignore it.

The same khat seller, Dhega Cadde was shouting “many are dead-men walking, today”; to everyone who came to buy khat from him on that Thursday. He is known for being loquacious and no one paid attention. He heard that warning from the district security head, as he bought his bundle of the “green leaves” a little earlier; but knew of no details.

First lieutenant Abraha stepped forward and caught the left ear of the old man with malicious slap. “quj bal (sit down)” he ordered him. The old man fell to the ground well before the order. As he walked back to his car, he told the “hostages”, “fine. I see you have decided to protect your darlings. You can go now, I know what to do.” The dust of his speeding vehicles dirtied some white dresses close by; as he dashed to the military camp.

Quickly, that afternoon, Abraha took out a piece of paper and asked all the members of the district executive committee to name the most influential personalities in their sub-clans. When the list reached forty-eight, he was satisfied. For each of the Tigrayan ‘hero’ murdered, he will kill eight Somali’s. Of course, some might spoil his plan if they ‘buy themselves out’ of the death sentences. That is if they pay ten thousand Birr each. If that happens, the monetary gain will offset some of his disappointment, as long as a minimum of twenty are killed.

Dr. Roble is not a psychiatrist; but a general practitioner. Yet, the enormity and diversity of health problems in this small town turned him into ‘a doctor for all’. He just can’t sit back and protest it is not his area of specialization-whenever desperate villagers bring all kinds of patients into his two-room pharmacy/clinic. He does his best; and the community is grateful. When they brought Amran to him, nearly a year after that eventful Thursday; she had already lost her sanity. They told him that she looked for her husband in all the jails of the country, in vain.  

Amran’s account of that ‘epoch of lunacy’ is different, as she told her brother-in-law when she brought Nimco for medical treatment 13 years later.  She says she saw her husband, walking in the street and ran after him to tell him how much pain she has gone through, while he was away. She says, she is sure that it was him. Those that witnessed the incident in which she threw away her toddler and run bare-footed into the traffic in Harar, say they saw no one in the direction she ran to.

She still claims that every night, analogues to the character in James Joyce’s Finnegan’s wake, her sub-conscious “breaks open” as she sleeps, Kaafi walks in silently, and then they would have a fabulous time together. That is why she dislikes the crow of cocks in the early morning, which “puts back together” her skull in the morning.

What happened was, that crooks who took money from her; took her from place to place promising to show Kaafi to her, for a long time. When she finally ran out of money, a day that coincided with the day they promised to “produce” him from one of the main prisons; they didn’t turn up at the rendezvous.  She had had occasional break-downs before that day. But that ‘ultimate’ day, as despair crept in full; she suddenly threw her baby-girl to the ground and rushed to “destination unknown”.

Chapter Four

In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s acclaimed novel, Love in the time of Cholera, the lovesick Florentino Ariza, at one point conflated his physical agony with his amorous agony; when he vomits after eating flowers in order to imbibe Farmina’s scent- his love who is happily married to the respectable medical doctor, Dr.Urbino. The novel is a tale of unrequited love that explores the idea that suffering for love is a kind of nobility. In a bizarre analogy, Amran –in this desolate town in Hawd finds similar solace from knowing all her misery is for her lost husband. Florentino Ariza lived long enough in that fifty-year love triangle, to share moments of happiness with the widow Farmina-after the tragic death of her beloved husband. The societal view that love is a young person’s prerogative, when indeed they were now ebbing to their last days, was the only drawback to their enthralling tale.

Amran finds happiness in the fantasy realm of her own imagination. Only in that mystical world does her passionate heart overwhelm her passionless mind. For her, “in the beginning was the love-not the thought”. All the real word offers to her is the glaring tragedy of her “loss”, of the promising days that never materialized, of the deprived joy of lifetime with the irreplaceable Kaafi; and that awakes her to the odour of putrefaction inside her.

She views accepting the endless “you can’t kill yourself like this”, and “keep up your spirits, life goes on” advices of well-wishers; as being tantamount to profanation of the purity of her love to her late husband. Cruelly, that augurs an uncertain future to her. So, she neither listens nor adheres to it. Long ago, she has forfeited the temptations of carnality, and opted to live in the ‘spiritually rewarding’ world of madness.

It doesn’t matter what she argues, and in the definition of this society, she is a ‘mentally unfit” women. Sadly for her, that is also the judgment of the last psychiatrist who saw her. He said, if she follows medication properly and lowers her stress, the frequency of the lapses she encounters will reduce.

After praying the sunset prayers in near-by mosque, Kaafi came to his home to deliver the items he bought. As he talked to his mother, who was there for the last three nights, helping the expecting mother, his sister who took the stuff from him, remarked “why don’t you came in and see your baby? She looks like you!” “ilmuhu meel iga tegi maayo, waan soo noqone pass this stuff now” he scolded her. As he walked off to, most likely, Xabiib’s house to watch news from the lonely satellite dish in town; half-a-dozen soldiers suddenly stood on his way. They didn’t produce any warrant nor did they say a word. They pushed and shoved him; and took him away.

Amran still recounts how she hurriedly jumped out from her makeshift bed-oblivious to her pain, as she caught up with the soldiers and begged them to release him. She knew it was futile, and immediately resigned to her fate. But one Somali-speaking man, who was with the soldiers, gave something of ‘good’ news to her. ‘Ninkii lacag haysta waa la siidaynayaaye’, he said and advised her to prepare ten thousand for tomorrow.

She immediately left to the telephone center; state owned-which fortunately was open at that late hour due to the holiday festivities. She ringed her brother abroad.

Thousands of miles away, in South Hall-London, Nassir had everything to be excited about. He was in the middle of his paternity leave, and just wounded up a tiresome-but wonderful shopping spree at a downtown Spa. He was few blocks away from his house, and the music coming out of the CD player in his Subaru car summed up his feelings on that given day: Louise Armstrong’s what a wonderful world!

The Indian spare-parts dealer tried to spoil his day earlier, when he kept nagging ‘sir, your car needs du (two) cylinders-nad (not) one’. Bal maxaa ka galay, ma isagaa iga bixinaya, he wondered. “No, brother, I intend to buy only one”, finally he told him firmly. Nothing puts him off more than the patronizing hindi (Indian) and Chinese chopsticks.

He saw the ringing telephone and knew it is from Africa. But he was in no hurry to answer. He recalls that he sent the ‘bill’ plus Ciid money a week ago, and personally confirmed his relatives back home got it. So, for what are they bothering him now? It wasn’t Ciid here; and he didn’t think it was a ‘ciid wanaagsan’ call. He doesn’t remember when someone braved the cost and called for such pleasantries from as far as Africa.

So, he didn’t answer. In any given day-when he is not off, he would have blamed the fatigue and stress that makes life unbearable; in the glittering cities of the west. In retrospect, after his sister told him the urgency and importance of that call -many months later; he laments bad luck and his heart sinks with a feeling of partial guilt.

No one can, of course, be sure of whether it would have mattered anyway. Some of the inmates taken to xerada kiflatoorka (military camp) that night; say Kaafi was among the first round of men taken out from the cell in the darkness of midnight, that same Thursday, and killed. But if that was the case, why wasn’t his body among the twelve displayed the next morning? Cabdiwaaxid was one of the dead; killed for commenting ‘war nimankan dadka Ciidaya cadceeda ku haya maa la iska celiyo?!’ He was not in the initial hit-list, but after his ‘incitements’ were learned of, he was picked up. One of the corpses was a young man who recently came from South Africa, lured by false story of peace and prosperity at home.

It is difficult to take the account of terrified men, more so when they give conflicting stories. Cali Dhuux, one of the survivors, said he saw Kaafi Dheere nearly a week after that night. All these testimonies are not better than those who came to Amran, month after month, with stories of which prison he is in; some claiming they are ex-inmates released recently; before she found a ‘safe refuge’ in madness.

Chapter Five

The Commander, Abraha, knows he had ordered the execution of twenty six of the men arrested that night. And had it not been for the wicked ‘ingenuity’ of his deputy, the diminutive Takle, would have displayed all of the dead bodies. Takle suggested that fourteen of them be strangled to death; and their bodies buried inside the camp. Unlike his bullish boss, Takle is more calculative and cunning. But his meanness and barbarism is unmatched by any in his regiment. His undisguised hypertrophic sense of ‘gallantry’ is annoying to most of his subordinates, as well.

Displaying the dead will satisfy his burning desire for revenge, in addition to the ‘terror’ that it will send down the spine of the ‘coward’ Somali’s. Hiding the rest of the dead, will quell the feeling of desperation that could result in an outburst of violence, and will serve the purpose of extorting extra ‘income’ from anxious family members.

Three months after the Ciid, the fortunate ones who cheated death by the grace of God, came out one after another to the hug and cries of their beloved families. Amran and Kaafi’s family stood there for hours-waiting patiently. All in all, the numbers of men who walked out of the military camp were fourteen. If all twenty-six ordered executions were carried out that Ciid night, there will still be eight more men an accounted for. To date, no one can tell where they are. The army that took them didn’t offer any explanation, not only about them, but also about those buried en mass in undisclosed location.

Amran is not mystic and doesn’t believe in presentiments and ominous auguries. If she did, the falling of Kaafi’s shirt three times from the nail on the wall of her room could have given her a critical hint. She was surprised, but she took it as one of many ‘inexplicable experiences’ she encountered all her life.

Few trivial things could turn around the fate of many people for good or for worse. Amran rues the neglect that led to belittling the signs of the impending disaster to strike. What if she had taken interest when the girls told her what they heard from their teacher! Why hadn’t she called him to see the child when he briefly came to the house? What if her brother could have answered her telephone-she called for nearly an hour? What if Kaafi hadn’t volunteered to replace a terrified old man, who couldn’t stand up of the ground after he was summoned for execution-if the account of one of the confused ‘survivors’ is to be believed!

What if Kaafi’s families embrace the same optimism in her, and go with her to all prisons in Ethiopia! The last if, is why she hates all his families whom she accuses of not endeavoring enough to look for him.

The most decisive information that would have saved Kaafi of this ‘ambiguous finale’ was delivered by none other than Badal Garawle, who literally cried to inform Kaafi’s big brother Muxumed, that he saw a list of prominent men to be killed that night. He said he saw it in the hands of an army intelligence officer; who gave to him so that he can coach him on how to pronounce the names correctly-when they met in the barber-shop. Muxumed laughed at him sarcastically, teasing him, if the paper he saw also contained the bishii!

Badal Garawle lost credibility among most; but it was not all fiasco. Reputation yaryaraysi male, and he can never forget when a stingy shop owner who never lends anything to anybody, allowed him to take a shirt on loan from his shop; remarking sow ninka bisha arkaa adiga ma tihid!

It is only Amran who still buys into that story of the unaccounted ‘eight’. She believes her man is alive somewhere; ‘I know he is’, she murmurs indignantly whenever they tell her to take samir. Poor pitiful women! Her daughter also doesn’t refer to her father as ‘the late’. When she has to talk about him, It is ‘my missing’ father. Since the day she started identifying the good from the evil, she vowed not to celebrate any Ciid. When her peers ask her, when she shall dance with them, she replies, when my father comes back!

Amran’s misery is not something that was done purposely to spoil her life. She is too insignificant to have been targeted. Her crime is more like the young princes who had to be butchered trying to get through the thorn-hedge that surrounded the proverbial sleeping beauty, just because they had the bad luck to be born before her hundred-year curse expired.

Amran had the bad luck to have been born to the wrong side of the arid land of acacia and camels of Hawd; decades after some malicious white man put a line on a white paper and decided it be part of  ‘where it never belonged to’ and ‘can never belong to’. She is even unluckier as ‘the white man’s curse’ that led to illegal occupation- unlike that of the sleeping beauty- is indefinite. Neither the ‘good fairy’ which made the princess sleep, nor the prince’s son who would kiss and awaken her, are guaranteed to come for her emancipation.

That grisly Ciid-day, when women’s wailing and ear-piercing cries replaced the customary cheers and rhymes of hope and ecstasy; left a panoptic memory of pain in the  minds of all those who had the misfortune to witness it.

It left a picture of the savagery of the ‘devil’ in the skin of a human, and of an endless suffering of the ‘cursed people’. That day’s ordeal was too horrific even by the standards of this land of widows, and orphans!!

(1) The writer is a freelance contributor to wardheernews.com. He can be reached at: moogedahas2008@yahoo.com.

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