‘Hello Panyim, how are you doing?’
‘Not good. They left us too soon! I already missed Biel, my brother.
‘But, at least you’ve seen him for some days. Did you love his stories? He loves you so much. He carried you on his shoulders many times in a day.’
‘Yes! And that’s why I wanted him to stay. But even my father could not let him stay at home. I have no idea when he’s going to come back again. I want to follow him to the base, but they said I can’t go there. I have no idea how far it is from here.’
‘My brother said he may come back next year around this time. That means a year from now. He even said he’s not sure if we will see him again. My father rebuked him for that,’ Nyakor narrated. Her eyes are still wet from crying. She missed her elder brother too, just over a week since he left for his army duties.
They were to capture Nasir from Mahajud, the serious warrior from Khartoum. Mahajud swore he will never turn his back to the town, no matter what.
For him, it’s better to die than to run away from the rebels. He called them idiots, just as they do for him. It was not clear who were the real idiots if there were any.
Garang, Kiir and others on the other side swear not to leave a single stone unturned. They must capture the only stronghold in that region at the time. Other towns were already under the rebels, except Malakal in the far north.
‘Let me see! What’s this?’
‘It’s the remaining part of the bullet!—kamthoor’
‘And you are holding it for what? They said these things contain poisons in them. You want to kill yourself? They have already called you my wife and you want to hold these things for what?
‘So, you’re the husband in action? I have been holding this thing more than once, and it has done nothing to me. Other children are holding it too. They even put water in it when they want. Give me please!’ she laments. Panyim took the thing away from her by force, and he’s looking at it carefully.
‘Don’t cry. I will give you. I just want to see how it looks like from the inside, so that I make one for myself, like I made those cows out of mud.’
‘Sorry, this is not made out of mud. Look! It’s made out of metal, a certain type from Merkem, [another word for America]. You know those things that look like stars, moving fast across the sky at night? There are people in them. They call them airplanes, the airlines. These are the same people who made these bullets, so that we can use them. We buy from them, my brother said, and then we use them to fight against each other.’
‘If they capture the city of Nasir, they will come to take us there. We will then live in good houses, not these ones here. My brother told me they are fighting for us, so that one day one time, we can be free and fly across the sky like those people. He said we will have good clothes, not rags. He said we will eat well, and even go to school!’
‘They keep telling me many things I don’t want to hear. They call me your wife, and I don’t like this. I want to go to school. I am about five now, and they are telling me to learn how to cook and do other things in the kitchen. Nothing else. There are no schools in this village.’
‘If you go to school, who will help your mother at home? What about your father’s goats, who will take care of them? You’re like a boy to your parents. You must do whatever they tell you to do. The Bible says obey your parents no matter what they say to you. You have to do as they want. This is to give you good life and blessings on earth. I think you want to live longer, don’t you?’
‘I want to go to school!’
‘I don’t know! They have good schools in Malakal, but those towns are under the control of the government. Even Juba is under the control of the government forces. Only those who sell themselves to the Arabs can get education these days. Let’s pray for our brothers. They may still be on the way. The place where they are heading is far away from here. We pray for their journey. They have also delayed here for about three days. Pray that their king will not punish them.’
‘If they can send them back, is that not a good idea?’ Panyim asks his girlfriend as she’s holding his hands, asking him to lead the prayers in his native language. He’s not sure of how to pray. He never went to a church before. He had no idea how to pray. But because she said so, he can try his luck.
‘God, look at our brothers and their brown friends as they go back to their military bases. Give them good health, good life and strength in their bodies, so that they carry those sticks and containers. They need strength so that they can be able to walk in the mud with those heavy boots. They also need food, enough food, so that they can be able to wrestle with their enemies. I pray for their leaders. Give them wisdom, knowledge and understanding, so that they can defeat the enemy in the town. Amen.’
‘You did not pray for peace?’
‘Peace with whom? Have you not heard that Mahajud don’t want to surrender to the black monkeys? He calls your brother a monkey and you say we can pray for peace? Just listen to me, Nyakor. Peace cannot come from one side. It must be from both sides. You’re speaking like a woman! You speak like a mother, but you’re not. You’re just a kid! I wish I was big enough like my brother. I cannot be here by now. I want to fight and send away Mahajud and make him run with his bare feet with no sandals. He has forgotten that he came from Saudi Arabia or what? At least, he must go back to his children in Khartoum and leave us alone here. We don’t need him and his idiots. His army is made up of many different people from all tribes of the country, including Nuba Mountains. They don’t know that Garang is fighting for the whole country. They will see it later that they are also part of us. We are Africans. We must unite and fight.’
‘Wait! What are you talking about, Panyim? Those who are fighting against each other are all Sudanese. They may be Arabs or not, but they are all Sudanese. There’s nothing to gain in killing each other in the name of regime change. God alone brings change, not humans. The idea of the New Sudan is a political thing. There will never be anything like this, let me tell you. Our problem is not the Arabs, but ourselves, the black people. My father said he will never join any armed group to fight a useless war. He believes that even if the government is defeated, there will always be one Sudan. Even if South Sudan becomes a country of itself, that is not a solution to anything. He even said we will one day end up fighting against each other in the South.’
‘Nyakor, you don’t really know what you’re talking about. Have you not heard that those brown men rape women every day? They call for them in the bright daylight and do all they want to do with them! As a man, no matter what age, I can’t tolerate this. Besides, they want you and me to speak in their language, even at home. The worst is that they want all of us to be Muslims, and pray with our heads down like the chicken that’s drinking the water from the bowl. Would you like to do that? We’re Christian. We have our own religion. Come on, we’re not Muslim, are we? My father has several deities and spirits to pray to. He better remains as he is, or he joins Christianity, but Islam, no!’
Biel and his friends arrived safely to their bases. They were welcomed with open arms. Unfortunately, they have lost most of their colleagues, a few days ago when they tried to capture the town around 5PM. Mahajub the real Arab was as brave as a Nuer man. He meant what he said. He lives by his words, nothing else. He’s still vowing to remain in the town and defend it from all attacks by the SPLA, no matter how tough the fighting may be.
‘Where is Wäl?’
‘He was shot in the head, and the bullet remained in his skull. But he’s alive. They took him to a hospital somewhere in the bush. We have no idea if he’s alive by now or dead. Your uncles were almost killed. Three of them were badly wounded. The only one who was defending them from the advancing Arab soldiers later on placed his tobacco stuff into his right eye! He thought he was putting it into his mouth. But they are all safe. We went for their rescue. Never tell this story to him! He will shoot you in the head. He’s not normal at all, ever since that day.’ Biel was warned by his comrades.
‘Tomorrow is your turn. You must lead the army to attack the town. Biel nodded to show his agreement.’ His commander, the man in charge of his battalion spoke. His words are final. No negotiation. No excuses. No complaining. He must accept and do it as he says.
But, will he make it back from that battle? Will they capture the town and slaughter Mahajub and his men with their knives? Who will win the battle for Nasir?