An excerpt from My Father's Son, written by Emmanuel Vin Mudah*
The bus took off from Kumunazi heading for Karango as the sun set.
It had been sold out with all overhead compartments packed with people's luggage. The mix of sweat and soil would grace their sojourn in that garbage track.
Mwiza stood in the aisle to allow the children to sit and sleep with more comfort. Now and then, Anita would stand up to take turns with him so he could have some time to rest. At times, Mwiza would sit, hold Mizero on his shoulders, have Sarafina on his lap while Anita sat with Rukundo. This inconvenience did not register in the minds of the children. As far as they were concerned, it was a trip to a remote vacation...
The bus was going at a steady speed, through urban and rural areas. Virgin forests formed most of the terrain they crossed. Occasionally they would stop to exchange drivers, give some passengers a chance to relieve themselves, drop passengers off and pick up others along the way. At one stop, in a valley vaunting Masuku trees, two soldiers came on board. Mwiza and Anita could hardly keep their leaping spirits tethered.
"Shush, stay quiet all of you. Don't say another word," Anita warned the children. It was a needless warning. They had long been schooled in the art of surviving.
The two soldiers came and sat on aisle seats opposite to that of Mwiza. Out of politeness, two young guys had offered them space. It was to Mwiza's relief that they were just passengers. He had thought they would search for Rwandan refugees enroute to seek asylum in Malawi. Mwiza and Anita just looked ahead; their minds yoked on the wavering future, however uncertain the colours looked. Sarafina and Mizero were with Anita by the window. Rukundo was standing between Mwiza's legs, his eyes alarmingly red.
"You guys look exhausted; looks like it's you fellas carrying the bus around. Where are you headed?" one of the soldiers asked with a thin smile.
"Just an exigent family event. We are attending a funeral in Dar es Salaam," Mwiza answered. He had been inured by experience, into a creative liar. With time, he had learnt that good diction and adding layers to lies made them more potent.
"That's nice of you. To travel all this way for family, that's some rarified feat. Do you mind," the soldier took off his hat and gave it to Rukundo who was looking at him directly in the eyes.
"All the girls are looking at you now, cowboy."
Mwiza awkwardly smiled. He was in no spirit to chitchat, but he did not want to be rude to the soldiers. Without uttering a word, Rukundo accepted it from him and put the hat on his head. Mwiza held his breath and prayed to God none of the children would utter a word in Kinyarwanda. After passing an unnerving bridge midway across a veld, the talkative soldier stood up.
“Please, God,” Mwiza thought, “Seal my children's little mouths.”
"I think we have arrived," the soldier said, looking at his colleague. They both looked outside, looking for clues to ascertain their destination.
"This must be it. It should be our stop." The other soldier stood up too.
"Sorry buddy, I will have to hold on to this. But I hope you will be a soldier when you grow up. Will you?" the chatty soldier said. Rukondo did not respond.
"Safari njema," he said, wishing them a nice trip. Rukundo waved at them as they threaded through the aisle on their way out. The bus stopped momentarily to let the soldiers off and then continued.
Relieved, at last, Anita sat quietly, looking out the window into the vast veldt outside. She was absorbing the beauty of Tanzania, the seething green vegetation, the boastful hills, and valleys. After a while, she began to see modern high-rise buildings at a distance.
"Dar es Salaam is a mesmerising city, honey. Look!" Anita said, nudging her husband. He had his eyes closed, trying to rest. He opened his eyes and peeped outside, "I have never seen buildings that tall!" "The city is majestic," Anita agreed.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we will be at the Dar es Salam depot in about twenty minutes. We have an hour layover. Feel free to stretch your legs and stroll around the city," an announcement came through the intercom.
It surprised Mwiza to see how on the same earth, not even across an ocean, life was going on as if nothing had happened in a next-door country.
Up until the age of eleven, my life was interrupted by major acts of violence. First the Rwandan genocide and the 1997 Tanzanian forceful repatriation of all Rwandan refugees. An exodus that led to hundreds of refugee deaths.
I did not have formal education until 2001 when my surviving family settled in Malawi. I squeezed 12 years of education in 8 years and graduated in 2009 among the top ten best students in the nation.
Based on a true story, My Father's Son is a tale of courage and forgiveness in the face of betrayal and crimes against humanity. In the land of a thousand hills, Rwanda, Dr Mwiza lived under the illusion that his bliss was eternal. In the background, the tension leading up to the Rwandan genocide swell and spread like an ugly outbreak. The darkness sent his family through rivers rife with floating bodies and the uncertain bowels of strange lands.
All's well that ends well, or so they thought while trying to resettle to Canada. Mwiza received a medical report that sent his family into an abyss but also sparked a journey of healing. It brought a family fractured by traumas of war closer together against a common enemy.
My Father’s Son by Emmanuel Vin Mudah, released in May 2023, published by LivenBooks.
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