The Land of Our Childen

“Ngaaai Kimemia! Ni thigara ukunyua twiroreire gikuu?” she begged.

I don’t know what was happening to me but I was not okay. I was a mess. My head was misfiring with signals and I was feeling all sorts of emotions. I had fear, I had shame, I had hopelessness, I had tears that I needed to shed. I was confused and anxious, doing random odd things. Like smoking. I felt a cigarette-thirst like I had never felt before. Inadvertently, I had lit a match on the cigarette dangling loosely from my dry lips. I can swear I don’t know how it got there. All I know is that I felt an overwhelming urge to smoke.

As soon as she turned around and faced me, I jolted back to my senses. Put the cigarette in between my two fingers and snuffed it out. I just grabbed the already glowing orange tip with my thumb and my forefinger and then pressed on it till it went out. It was only painful for the first few seconds then I felt nothing.

Initiially, I was going to put back the cigarette into my pocket but just when I was about to, right when my fingers brushed the linings of my shirt pocket, I decided not to. In fact, I felt angry at myself for trying to. I threw it on the ground and stamped on it. I stamped on it with all the frustration I had. My quick shallow breaths were now being forced through clenched jaws.

My sister was still staring at me. As I dropped the cigarette, our eyes met. Her big eyes got tender, amidst the tears rolling down her face. She gave me a slight smile as she wiped down a flood of even more tears, then turned around and continued chanting her prayers. That was the first time since when I was sixteen, that I had even been able to say no to a cigarette. Not even after I started coughing slight spurts of bright red blood into my handkerchief a few months ago. Not even after I was rushed to hospital in dire condition when I passed out during a profound fit of coughs. My sister found me lying on the floor with a cigarette on my chest sizzling a hole through my polyester shirt. Immediately, she yelled our mother’s name.

“Acio mookite!” someone let out a shrill scream.

A scream that pierced the ear like a hot knife on butter. What followed, was one impossibly long second of utter silence before the first baby burst out crying. Soon, twenty, thirty other babies were crying hysterically and shortly after, their older siblings joined them. Their mothers tried to calm them down, albeit fruitlessly.

All morning, we had watched them coming but never arriving. We had been treated to sights of houses burning, a few occasional explosions and huge clouds of smoke, billowing angrily into the sky. Like as if to tell us, we’re coming for you next. We had been calling the police for the entire morning to reinforce protection at our location. They were coming. We were told again and again each time we called.

“Ni nyinyi tunakujia!” I could hear some of them roar as they chanted war songs.
Within our enclosure, some started squirming around in anxiety. “Rugaamai o hau muuri! Matingiingira kanitha.” One of the church leaders shouted once the panicky movements and clamours became too much to bear. Hold your guard. They cannot attack us within a church. He said in his bravest voice. The guards at the gate held their crude arsenal ready, waiting. A few other men stood beside them, waiting to back them up. They looked haggard and tired yet held their stand with a, particularly strong defiance.

After an eternity of tension, we could sketch out a wild mob fast approaching. Some had their faces painted white.

Their arrival was first preceded by a shower of rocks and other metallic projectiles. A steady barrage falling from the cloudless, blue, mid-morning sky. As they landed, we all crouched to the ground, arms wrapped around our heads. Some like Njuguna were already retaliating the attack with their own volley of rocks. However, the onslaught was unrelenting. A few had gotten to the gate and were demanding that the guards open the gate. The more the guards detested their demands, the more the fast-growing mob grew vexed. Their anger was flaring to dangerous levels.

Not long after, the first arrow whistled through the air, lodging itself on a patch of earth behind me.

The war had started. The sound of breaking metal, clashing machetes, rocks smashing through windows. A fierce battle quickly ensued. I only remember seeing my sister hurrying back into the Kiambaa Assemblies of God Church Hall behind us carrying my two nephews The back of her skirt had a slight wet patch. Her legs were dripping wet as were her black Bata rubber shoes.

Most of everything after that was a blur.

There were lots of haphazard running. Those who couldn’t run were the first to die. Like Daniel Mwangi in the wheelchair. He was tipped over as countless men slashed on his torso. Those who tried to defend him could only suppress the assault for a few seconds before sustaining too many injuries. I remember seeing one of them scuttling away with a deep axe cleft running across on his forehead. He only managed to run for a few metres before he started staggering then fell heavily onto the ground. He tried to crawl away but his body wouldn’t budge. His neck then gave way and his head rested on the blood-caked soil under him, mouth open in shock.

Meanwhile, Daniel was piled with dry maize leaves before being set ablaze. He writhed in pain for a few moments before he became motionless. He was gone. During the entire ordeal, as they slashed him like firewood, some were calling him by name.

At some point, I felt a heavy metallic object connect with my skull. I fell to the ground before everything grew dark and faint.

When I next fluttered my eyelids open, I lay on someone’s motionless torso staring at the church hall. The air smelt of blood and petrol. I could see right in front of me, young men piling mattresses and dry twigs around the besieged church. They grabbed some bicycles parked nearby, stacked them up against the walls and the door before dousing them in diesel. The whole place now reeked of fumes. From inside the church, I could hear voices of mostly women and children screaming and crying. Some were praying hysterically, begging the heavens to split open and come to their rescue.

It didn’t happen.

Instead, a match was lit and not before long, the church was engulfed in a roaring inferno. The screams grew louder and more painful to listen to. I wanted to do something. I tried to lift myself up but I couldn’t feel my body. I had to lay there, in a pool of clotted blood and tears, watching. Suddenly, a man jumped out of one of the church windows. He was carrying a child. No sooner his feet touched the ground than a frenzy of slashing pangas fell upon on him. Someone even shot a close-range arrow into him. He was gone in seconds. Despite seeing what awaited them outside, people were still clawing tooth and nail out of the burning church. The screams began to grow muffled and silent. They sounded distant; as if echoing from a different dimension.

A woman jumped through the flames that were busy licking the window with her children in hand. One was a toddler, strapped to her back with a flimsy leso. As she struggled out wailing, the leso’s fabric caught fire and shrivelled casting the baby back into the scorching inferno. The mother didn’t have time to look back. She just ran out, her hair and clothes caught in flames.

As she did, the young men surrounding the church only stared at her in amusement.

“This is our land. Go back to where you came from or choose to burn alive!” they yelled, some calling her by name. “And tell that thief Kibaki to send a plane to collect you and your thieving kind. We don’t want you on our land anymore.”

The church had by now grown silent. It was now collapsing on itself, defeated by the fire. The heat around was unbearable. From where I lay, I could feel the tips of my eyelashes and brows singeing out.

Soon enough, there was nothing left to burn but charred remains of what was once the Kenya Assemblies of God Pentecostal Church, Kiambaa.

And I was feeling tired to my soul. So, so tired, that I wished I had died too. So tired, I started hoping that I would not live through this. Tired of life. Tired of everything.


I’ve heard some people say we crossed an invisible line that day. We did something a lot similar to what happened to Rwanda at the onset of the civil war which left bodies floating on rivers for months to come. For years, their land stank to the high heavens of a million dead souls.

Similarly, the situation in Rwanda crept in as a slow falling out, which before long, morphed into an all-out war.


“We have not inherited this land from our parents, we have borrowed it from our children”

We have a responsibility to the generations that will come after, to pass down this land to them just as it was passed down to us. It is irresponsible and selfish of us, to inherit an earth, as perfect as none other, then destroy it because of our selfishness, because of our greed, because of our hatred.

You owe it to your younger sister to let her finish her university degree. You owe it to your little nephews and nieces, the ones who glow and brighten up when you hold them, a chance to show their glow to the world. They deserve to go through primary school just like you did. You owe it to that young girl who looks up to you, a chance to get excited when she meets her first boyfriend/heartbreak. You owe it to your children. The four kids you wish to have — three boys and a girl. You hold their future in your hands until they can also do the same for the generation after.

Every action you take particularly after the eighth will very much determine the future we pass down to our children. Let us not be remembered as the unfortunate generation that smothered out the bright future of this prosperous land and its people because we couldn’t learn to live together as brothers and sisters.

I remember, as a child, just how dismayed I was upon learning that Adam doomed us to a life of eternal servitude and suffering because he chose to eat the forbidden apple. I didn’t understand how or why he just couldn’t say no to a damn apple! Such an easy thing to do.

Little did I know that I would also be presented with dozens of apples in my life. Apples are simply choices.

Often, saying NO to the apple sounds like an effortless thing to do but it can prove to be very difficult.

To be peaceful. To rise above hate. To forgive. To live and let live.

Those are our Apples. It’s our turn to make the choice.