By Samuel Sebbowa Bunnya, Uganda
“Oh how I hate that fool.”
Lumbe was seated outside of his great hut. The structure overlooked the imperial city of Ganda. In the sinking blood gold rays of the western sun, Ganda shone brightly. Lumbe had always wondered how the old masters had woven Zaabu with stone to make the walls of the city. The tall scrappers that shot out from behind the walls almost kissed the sky. In the centre the Imperial Palace of the king shone brightly with its intricately designed glass dome.
Lumbe’s mood darkened as he stared at the centre of Kitara’s power. His grandfather and father had shared their dreams with him. He had thought that having his sister marry the king would bring closer to their goals. He had been wrong. Kunda was not a man to be trifled with. The king had always kept Lumbe at arm’s length. Lumbe had tried to woo his nieces and nephews, but had failed. They had too much of their father in them.
It was the only reason he had seen the white man as the answer. Lumbe clenched his fist and slammed it against his thigh. A soft rustle of cloth on skin caught his attention. He turned to see two of his guards observing him from a short distance. They did not need to see him like that. No one did.
“Leave me,” he barked.
The guards looked at each other.
The three burly men dipped their heads before turning back towards the great hut. Lumbe welcomed the solitude. He sat there looking at the setting sun. His head was churning. The world was changing and the time for Kitara to change was coming. The fools of Katonda’s line were refusing to allow progress and change.
“How long before even the Oul can rival us?”
Lumbe kept thinking of how long it would take before Kitara was left behind.
Before Lumbe knew it, it was dark. The silver moon was out in its full glory. He had sent the guards far away a long time ago. He had wanted to brood alone. His sons had approached him, but had scurried off after one long hard stare from him. No one dared to approach him. He had observed the sun and then the moon in the sky as he thought back to the conversation with Kunda weeks past.
His plan all hinged on the white man entering the borders, but Kunda somehow seemed to know what was happening. At first, Lumbe had not known how serious Kunda had been about preventing the white man from entering the borders of Kitara. But in the council meeting when Lumbe had raised the issue that Ndovu of Oul sought to meet with them, Kunda had brushed him off and informed him that Kitara did not need Oul.
But I need Ndovu and his white man, Lumbe thought darkly.
The past few nights had seen his mood darken as Kunda had issued edicts that banned any trade with the white man. Lumbe had watched as some of the traders that he had promised a chance to trade with Kitara, were turned away from the borderlands. He had also seen a few of his tribesmen who knew of his plans ordered to new duties that limited his contact with them.
“What is it husband?”
Lumbe turned to look at his beautiful wife. Only she would dare intrude on his dark mood. Lumbe chuckled lightly under his breath.
Lumbe looked at Mbabazi who was standing a few feet from him. She had a heavy coat lined with lion skin in her hands. Her sharp angular face with cat like eyes had been what had swayed him to marry her many years ago. They were the same things that mesmerized him whenever he looked at her. Mbabazi smiled at him revealing the small gap between her front teeth. Lumbe welcomed the reprieve from his thoughts as he looked into her eyes, which hid no emotion from him.
“It is that muko of mine?” He had no secrets from her. “That blasted fool.”
“What has the king done?”
“Kunda refuses to see the benefits of working with the white man.” Lumbe could not help clenching his fists in frustration. “Daudi told me some interesting things he has seen in the Benin homeland.”
“But Benin fell to the white man long ago,” Mbabazi pointed out.
“No my dear wife.” Lumbe knew of the slow rise of Edo after it had been burnt by the white man. “The white man used a chief to take down the Oba Ovonramwen. Now the great king is a prisoner in their lands.”
“But the Edo people are not like us.” Mbabazi was only playing the devil’s advocate. “They do not have our technology. No one on the continent does – not even the white man you want to come to our homelands.”
“Now you talk like Kunda.” Lumbe did not like to hear the argument of Zaabu. He knew it was a great asset to Kitara, but it kept their people away from society. It would keep them behind the rest of the world. Instead of being the leaders of the world. “The Edo are rising, and from what Daudi says, they are being helped by the white man.”
“With their gun powder and strange guns.” Mbabazi crossed her arms over her chest. “Dear husband, all one of our warriors has to do is put on the elephant hide armour coated with Zaabu and those guns that threw down the mighty Masai would be useless. Our army is strong and well equipped. Our men and women seek new ways to use Zaabu. You can see it all around Kitara.”
“That is my point.” Lumbe stumped his foot on the ground.
Mbabazi approached him and wrapped the heavy coat round his shoulders. She looked into his eyes and Lumbe saw the understanding there.
“You do not have to tell me.” Her voice was little over a whisper. “You know that my father agreed with your father about Kitara hiding in the shadows.”
“We should be the leaders of the world. Not this so-called British Empire. Not the French or Prussians. It should be Kitara.” Lumbe was furious. “We should show those white men that Kitara is far greater and advanced compared to them. Allowing them to come and see our greatness will make them think twice about siding with the Benin, the Masai or even the Oul.”
“But Kunda remains a problem.” Mbabazi stood straight and crossed her arms over her chest. “And your nephew will be an even bigger problem.”
“He worships the ground his father walks on,” Lumbe snapped.
Mbabazi’s response was not what Lumbe expected. Lumbe observed the thoughtful expression on her face. “What are you thinking?”
“If Kunda is the problem then get rid of him.”
Lumbe could not believe his ears. “That is treason,” Lumbe hissed.
“Isn’t his refusal to show the world Kitara’s true power treason?” Mbabazi’s eyes shone with malice. “Kaikuzi is still young and can be influenced with time.”
“Are you mad Mbabazi?”
“No I am not.”
“What of my sister? What of the general?” Lumbe wanted Kunda’s downfall but not his death.
“Mukuzi is an old man.” Mbabazi turned her back to Lumbe. “Your sister had been brainwashed by the promises of Katonda’s descendants.”
“What are you trying to say?” Lumbe hissed. He did not like his sister’s husband, but he loved Nambi. “Nambi is no traitor. She will always be a daughter of the Nalubaale tribe.”
“Do not be a fool,” Mbabazi snapped. She whipped round and glared at him. Her eyes were ablaze with a deep rooted anger. “Your love for your sister will forever blind you husband. That is why you are not willing to do what must be done.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” Lumbe got to his feet so that he looked down at his wife. His rage was moving through his eyes. “Are you saying that I am weak.”
“Maybe you are.” Mbabazi only laughed as she looked up at him. She did not fear him. “Do you think Nambi would ever side with you against her husband. She loves Kunda too much to even think of seeing the sense of bringing the white man here. Have you not seen how she argues in the Women’s Council. Have I not told you she is insistent that our female warriors and traders avoid the white man.”
Lumbe swayed on his feet. He knew in his heart. Mbabazi had told him all that Nambi had asked the women of Kitara to do to keep the white man and enemies of her husband away. He sunk back onto the stool and looked at his fierce wife.
Mbabazi gave him a wry smile. “If it comes down to it Lumbe, she will wield the executioner’s spear herself.”
I know. Lumbe calmed down. He knew that she was right. Lumbe did not want to admit it. He looked down at his sandaled feet confused. After a few moments he felt the soft palms of Mbabazi’s hands touching his cheeks. She lifted his face to look into her eyes. There was love and understanding in her dark eyes.
“See what you are reduced to, proud son of Baale.”
Lumbe let out a strangled sigh. “It must be done.”
“Yes.” Mbabazi smiled at him. “All that needs to be done is to remove Kunda.”
“You leave it to me.” Mbabazi smiled at him. “Meet Musinguzi and Tugume tomorrow at dawn by Bujagali.”
Lumbe was shocked. “You want me to travel back to my father’s lands?”
“I have a council meeting tomorrow and Kunda will be suspicious if I am not there.” Lumbe was shaking his head.
“You can easily come up with an excuse.” Mbabazi was calm. She seemed to have had a plan in motion. “We shall send Mitala in your place for this council meeting. And I will travel with you so that it looks like I insisted on travelling with you.”
“It is the only way for you to meet this Henry Morton Stanley.” Mbabazi offered him a smile. “The waterfall is near the border lands and I know it is easy for one to slip past the border patrols. I can manage to sneak this Stanley to a small cave near the waterfall.”
Lumbe was awestruck. “The white man guiding the Masai.”
“How? No white man is allowed in our borders.” Lumbe’s mouth hang open. “If they find him they will kill him.”
“Then the white man’s pride will be so hurt that they will make war on us,” Mbabazi shot back.
“It will mean war.”
“And the might of Kitara will be revealed,” Mbabazi said.
Lumbe clapped his hands together in astonishment. “And if they do not see him. Then what?”
“We meet him and you discuss a plan to get rid of Kunda,” Mbabazi answered. “Isn’t he from this empire that is very good of getting rid of its emperors.”
“Yes the British.” Lumbe shook his head in disbelief. “How do you keep such things from the ears of the Intelligence Council.”
“I have my ways husband,” Mbabazi whispered. “Councilwoman Kunihira’s little ears are not as sharp as they once were.”
“Very well.” Lumbe got to his feet once again. “Make the preparations.”
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