While on the battlefield, most soldiers fantasise about palm-fringed beaches, sex, and alcohol when, and if, they get back home; not necessarily in that order. They watch poor-quality porn on their phones to remind them what they are missing and what the female body looks like. That’s most soldiers, but I am not most soldiers. All I think of is murdering my fiancée.
I have not slept. Most nights, I don’t. I am thinking of tomorrow when I leave Somalia. AMISOM 13 is over. I am in the last batch of my unit to leave. Others went back piecemeal since the 8th Battalion the Kenya Rifles arrived.
I stare at the wide panoply of stars and luminous darkness that rules the night from my sentry post. A loud shrill of the muezzin’s call for fajr pierces the pre-dawn silence.
It is the dreaded hour. Al-Shabaab come at this time. Reports received yesterday indicated that the dastard bastards were planning to attack a KDF camp in Sector Central, none in particular. We are used to the fake reports by now. Since we took over a year ago, they have been planning to attack a KDF camp.
The guy who is supposed to relieve me wakes up and joins me.
“How is it,” he asks. “Anything suspicious?”
“No,” I say. “These intelligence guys know nothing. They send us reports to keep us on our toes. They just want to stay relevant.”
“Why don’t you sleep?”
“Sitaki kushikwa kwa mkono al-Shabaab wakija,” I say. “Did you see the photos of those soldiers who were caught sleeping in Elade and Kolbiyo?”
“But you don’t even sleep during the day like most of us.”
“Well, I’m not most of you.”
“You’re a strange man, Patoo. I wish I had your endurance.”
We sit in silence, then he says, “What would you do when you get back to Kenya?”
I feel like God is sending an angel to warn me, but I tell him what I expect would happen: “I heard we will be granted block-leave. I will go to build that house I had wanted to build in the plot I bought before we came here.”
“Afadhali wewe uko na plot,” he says. “I’m still paying my sisters’ school fees. I don’t know when I’d be able to acquire my property.”
At the mention of the word ‘fees’, my stomach muscles go taut. I don’t want to comment on it; I told my father to educate his children.
“Do you think we should leave Somalia?” he asks when he senses my disinterest in private life talk.
“If we did not leave after the Elade attack, we will never leave Somalia,” I say. I was in training then, and when I saw the photos of the attack online, I almost ran away from the recruit training school.
I don’t tell him that I think the system is fucked-up, that nothing matters to me anymore, and that I want him to shut the hell up.
I spend the day packing. Of importance is the belted ammo of my light machine gun. I make sure I get enough; anything can happen along the way. Even after thirteen years in Somalia, we still travel by road when direct flights from Mogadishu to Nairobi resumed eight years ago. Most Kenya Defence Forces bases in Somalia have airstrips, military aircraft could airlift us, but they don’t. They just come for casualty evacuation missions only.
Belesqoqani does not have an airstrip. We have to travel all the way to Garissa. All troops to and fro Somalia travel by road through Garissa, except those who go to Kismayo and Mogadishu. It is the roads that are riskier—al-Shabaab ambushes and IEDs everywhere.
At midnight, the Officer Commanding summons us. He says we’re leaving: surprise al-Shabaab.
We arrive in Garissa at around 1500hrs. The town hasn’t changed. We go to the camp, but I leave immediately after. I want to extol the virtues of drinking and the warmth between the glorious thighs of Somali women.
DRC Club is the home of soldiers in Garissa. The soldiers coming from Somalia, loaded with AMISOM dollars, are full. All the good Somali women are few now; women have flocked to Garissa from the neighbouring Kitui County—from Mwingi to Thika—for the dollar rush.
I throw money around like a drug lord, spend it like it doesn’t mean anything. I am generous with the ladies, and one of them tells me she doesn’t like her work. She would love to be a housewife; I hear instead that she would like to have a house.
I get back to the camp long after midnight, at unnerving three o’clock in the morning. I can barely walk, and I am bleeding. I have received quite a beating: the bouncers were not merciful on me for beating one of the women. Njeri was her name. The bitch wanted to spike my drink. For someone who has spotted al-Shabaab from hundreds of metres, I couldn’t let mcheletake me down.
The Guard Commander at the gate throws me into the guardroom, pours water on the floor, and locks me in. When I come to, my OC is towering above me. He is livid, and rightly so, but he can’t leave me behind.
I hastily get ready and join the others. Our journey to Nairobi continues. Today we’re painting the city red.
When we get to Embakasi, I defy the OC’s directive not to leave the camp without cleaning the weapons and returning them to the store. I can’t wait to see my fiancée.
It is not hard to dodge the Company Sergeant Major. After all, I had bribed him severally to look the other way when my conduct was unbecoming.
My house at Nyayo Estate is out of place, dusty. The bitch hasn’t come here? I sit on the bed and think about the next twelve hours. Later, I go to Tuskys and buy takeaway food—chips, chicken, and yoghurt.
Love killed me: I look at the note I have written, signed Patrick. But on second thought, I decide not to leave any.
Long after midnight, I unpack my rucksack. I take the binoculars that I borrowed from the Platoon Commander’s runner. I switch off the lights and walk to the window. Most apartments on the third floor of the block opposite mine are off, but the one I want lights are still on. I can see silhouettes moving, but the night-vision-enabled binoculars will show me everything.
I see everything for thirty minutes. She’s always been wild in bed. As though to tell me they are just getting started, my fiancée turns around, lifting her tight ass up to him. He enters her from behind.
So far, they have done it in all styles and positions. I seethe with anger: towards him for reaping where he did not sow, and her for taking me for a fool—for fuck’s sake, I refused to pay for my sisters’ school fees so I could pay hers. I can’t take it anymore, and I want to teach them the error of their ways.
I check the belted ammo I had packed while leaving Somalia: 6,000 rounds. My beloved Negev Light Machine Gun has never failed me, and I have a night vision telescopic sight. I won’t miss!
I open the window and place the gun at an angle. I look through the telescopic sight, and all I want is to end my misery. I synchronise with his thrusts and fire. A burst. Blood jets from his neck, though I can’t see the rivulets with the scope.
I see them go down. They couldn’t all be dead, but I want to make sure they stay down, forever. I aim and traverse the gun in the room, on the two lumps I assume to be them on the bed. And I don’t stop. Even if I don’t get them, ricochets will. I can see the door out of the bedroom; it is still closed, now riddled with bullet holes; if any of them survives, I won’t let them get to the door.
A wave of adrenaline passes through me; I ain’t letting go of the trigger. The pop pop pop pop pop pop pop pop! of the gun is not stopping. It’s like it has what we call ‘gun runaway’.
I’m so engrossed that I don’t notice the police armoured personnel carriers arrive and the police taking positions in the parking lot. A moment later, a hail of bullets hit my window. Soldier instinct kicks in, and I turn the gun on them.
At this time, the adamantine faith to control my own fate is conceited deceit. I have seen army trucks arriving after the police, if I’m not mistaken.
If I must die, I won’t die alone. The gun barrel is red hot, but there is no spare. I must fight to the end.
You’re told not to focus on the front and forget your rear on the battlefield. That’s the mistake I made. An explosion goes off at my door and, before I act, the dreaded Recce Company commandos barge in.
I turn and face them. I expect some kind of telepathic communication, to let them know that I am one of them, to share my pain with them, but their portent eyes say it all—their orders are to shoot to kill.
I want to scream ‘Allahu Akbar!’, but I don’t want to die a terrorist. I’m a soldier. Soldiers don’t surrender.
I raise the gun, but I realise I can’t kill myself with a machine gun. Instead, one of the Recce boys does it for me. I fall into a dark, bottomless pit, but what I see is Marya’s face and us kissing in the moonlight.