Short Stories, Tale Africa

#JE SUIS AFRIQUE (5)

img_0081By Maarifa PJ Kidoge, DRC:

After we found out that we had lost our beloved hero, Mark, we were taken in by the priest who had found us taking shelter in the church. This helped us to temporarily forget the tragedy that had befallen us … at least for a couple of weeks.

During our stay at the priest's house, we never got any trouble whatsoever. There were no soldiers shooting at us, no hunger tormenting us and we were even allowed to play soccer outside. That didn't mean that we didn't hear gun shots. Apparently, war soldiers aren't supposed to shoot at churches or something. I didn't understand why that was so… In fact, the day I found this out I wished I had become a pastor or a priest so that I could turn my home into a church so that soldiers wouldn't harass us. However, it was too late because the damage was already done: I had lost my mother, and had left my father without any hope of ever seeing him again.

I remember supper time at the priest's place. We would sit on the floor in a circle and eat quietly. I have often wondered what was going on in my siblings' minds; none of us cried or talked about what had happened to us. We all just appreciated the food offered to us and slept immediately after eating. I had a lot going on in my head, and thought of my mother every time I was not playing. I dreamt of the things she taught me, I wished to see her again so we could sing like we always did in the kitchen while she was cooking. I thought of my sisters who left ahead of us and wondered whether I was going to see them again. They didn't see how our mama died, and they probably didn't know that she was gone… I think they figured that something wasn't right when they watched the days passing without our arrival.

After a couple of months, there was someone looking for us: It was my father's brother. He came to get us so we could go somewhere. I did not know where we were going. I simply trusted whoever was watching over me. I don't know what conversation he had with the priest but we did not leave that day with him. I was sort of happy to stay because we had settled there and had forgotten the some of the pain we had experienced. After a few weeks, my mother's brother came looking for us. He was very close to us and we were all glad to see him; the priest allowed us to leave with him this time around. I still wonder why he never let us go the first time.

My uncle had told us that we were going to meet our papa again. We were all excited because one of our desires was going to be met. We walked for almost a day and saw so many cadavers until I got used to seeing them. We saw mothers crying over the loss of their children, fathers wandering the area looking for help that was nowhere to be found, many abandoning young ones due to fear, others losing hope and deciding to wait for death… and many, like us, on the move to an unknown destination.

Looking back, I wonder if there was any news coverage over what was happening to us. I was convinced that the world was ending and if I had been told that there were still peaceful places on earth, I would never have believed it. I am sure that while I lacked food, someone in Europe was playing football, someone was reporting the news of war in Congo, someone was enjoying time with family, and someone in America knew what was going on in Congo… But there was no help for us. Only those fortunate enough to walk could help their families flee that horror.

A minute of silence in remembrance of suffering people like us didn't feed us, pity on us from people who heard of what was happening to us didn't stop what was happening to us. To this day, my gut tells me the minutes of silence kept in remembrance of various tragedies are serving the people who are keeping them more than those who need help. If it were up to me, I would rather spend that minute planning how to reach out to those who need my help.

Social networks have become hubs used to create awareness amongst people and platforms of gossip about what is happening but to people like us, none of that awareness filled our stomachs, none of it quenched our thirsts. The awareness simply served those who needed to be aware of what was happening. Action is what counts and in the end hungry children will remember those who fed them, not those who thought of them when they were hungry. How do I know that? Because I too was that hungry child and I remember the priest who gave me bananas and peanuts when I was hungry.

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