Take care of my children. His voice never left me. There were nights that I dreamed in such vivid detail that when I woke, I was confused, forgetting, for a fraction of a second, that I was in my bed. For the minutes that followed, the grief washed over me for the loss of a friend who had had my back, the uselessness of my life fighting for the imperialism of a country that didn’t care for me. Part of me wondered if the dreams would change, if one day they would be the same monochrome shadows of before Somalia.
Wesonga’s widow moved like a clockwork soldier, especially when she made the umpteenth trip to the Unit. She said it was for her children; no one else would follow up on her husband’s benefits if she gave up. Being taken round in circles by the Welfare Office didn’t stop her. I once asked her what they tell her, and her face fell into an expression I had never associated with her features before. Under that resilient personality was a woman more sorrowful and hopeless than I could have guessed. The Fafadun attack had taken more than her husband.
In the half-light of the breaking day, I waited, breathing slowly. My fingers were almost numb, the cold biting, the air acrid with the stench of what I was about to do. I wondered if killing the enemies of the society was enough, if it would right all the wrongs, if I would be taking care of my friend’s children. It was as if the act was abstract, convincing myself that I was doing it for my friend, but how can killing be a solution to corruption?
I squinted through the telescopic sight. The cross-section of the telescopic sight rested on the brigadier’s forehead. My finger coiled around the trigger. Do unto others what you’d like them to do unto you, sir.
My hands became damp. This is the moment.
The dark red blood made its way out of his head. It gushed forth as a rivulet. My vision became blurrier as I watched his shirt turn darker through the scope. Each drop of blood slowly took away the life in him, leaving him motionless on the ground.
I’m taking care of your children, Bro.
The senior military officer got off his car and headed toward his house. It was three years, and Wesonga’s benefits were yet to be processed. There was no hope for tomorrow; his widow was full of sorrow.
“Jambo, Sir,” a voice called. “Turn slowly and look at me, General.” The retired one-star general, who was now the Defence Forces Medical Insurance Scheme chairman, was startled. He came to an abrupt halt, befuddled at the security breach in his home.
“When are you planning to process Senior Private Wesonga’s benefits for his family?”
“What’s the meaning of this?”
“I am sending a message to the others. The rot and the corruption in the DEFMIS will end with you if the rest get the message …”
“You won’t get away with this!”
“You have mismanaged the insurance scheme that’s supposed to cushion us when we leave the army. You’ve refused to process my dead friend’s benefits for his family …”
“Son, there is no need for this. Put the gun down.”
The soldier had obeyed every order so far—march, shoot, eat, sleep—but now was not the time. After all the trappings of military command—the authority, the security details—were stripped away, the chairman was vulnerable and insecure like everybody else. The soldier, no matter how corrupt he considered the system to be—and no matter how much he believed killing the corrupt would cleanse the system of the corruption—he had second thoughts sometimes.
The chairman cowered, facing him with hopeless eyes. You think, you die. That’s what they said in the Special Forces. Every time something told him not to pull the trigger, he convinced himself he was doing it for his dead friend, running out of options—shoot his former Brigade Commander, threaten him or scare him. None of them good options: the first would be making him a killer, the second and third equally dangerous. But perhaps the first one was the least awful of the three.
And that’s how the killings started.