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Always know your opponent’s soft point!

By August 5, 2011June 6th, 2023No Comments

Me, I feel for this ‘guy’, Muammar Muhammad al-Gaddafi. ‘Guy’ in inverted commas because this word has been transported into the realm of all-encompassing limitlessness to mean anything. Today, ‘guy’ is used to mean a human being of any age or sex. Yet, it can also mean any creature or object.

You can refer to a snake as a ‘guy’ just as you can, to a stone. In the end, you are left in a dither, as to what the word actually means.

It’s like the name of that guy. Is it al-Gaddafi, Kadafi, Qadafi, Gadafi, Gaddafy,  Kaddafi, Qadhafi, el-Kathaffy or Algathafi? And his first name, is it Muammar, Moammar, Mu’ammar or Moamar? It’s no wonder then that the West is after his neck. I would, too, if I cared for the editors of my newspapers. Each time they have to spell that guy’s name, they go bananas.

The poor guys are reduced to a jabbering stupor, as if they’ve gazed into the tentacled maw of Cthulhu himself! Remember that short story of the 1920s, called ‘The Call of Cthulhu’? It described Cthulhu as a malevolent guy trapped in an arctic underwater city. The guy was supposed to be an octopus, a dragon or a human caricature with a pulpy, tentacled head surmounted onto a grotesque scaly body, with rudimentary wings.

To the West, then, Gada.., Qad.., el-Kh.., ‘Whatever’ could as well be that creature. See how they thought they’d block him from flying in his skies and see his clean pair of heels, only to find themselves in a tizzy today. But he’s still cornered and I sympathise because I remember that my family was in a similar entrapment at one time.

We were in Bambo, near Masisi, in former Belgian Congo then-turned Congo-Kinshasa (not Kinsasha, Kisasa, Kishasa, Kishasha or Kinshasha!), on the wrong side of 1963. One day, working in the field, we saw our old man approach from the town centre at a brisk pace. Once near, he called out breathlessly: “Quick, to the bush! They are coming.” Bewildered but now ever-ready to bolt, having done the same in Rwanda in 1959, we followed him to the house and quickly packed whatever we could.

‘Whatever we could’, of course, meant a few cooking pans, any little edible and some tools of defence. Through experience, we’d seen that when you thus ran away, there was no telling when you’d next happen on a meal nor know the dangers you’d encounter. In such cases, the luxury of dress and sleep becomes secondary, as the instinct for survival takes centre stage. In any case, who had more than they were wearing and who, any bedding?

After putting some good distance between us and our home, we thrust deeper into the forest. There, we made ourselves as comfortable as possible and trained ourselves not to make any noise. But, as fate would have it, after some time we heard the noise of many people headed towards us. Soon, we could hear them hewing the bushes as they cleared a path near us.

When they were practically upon us, I emerged with my hands in the air. I must have looked like a tiny creature from the moon, with my oversized head and tiny limbs, because the wild-eyed men raised their weapons and surged back. Quickly, I identified their boss and headed to him with these words, in their typical Congolese Kiswahili: “Bwana mukubwa, batu bangu bamenituma nikupatiye hiyi, ndiyo ubasamehe.” (Boss, my people have sent me to offer you this and ask for forgiveness.)

Their boss was visibly happy and instructed the rest of the mob to stand aside and let my people come out unharmed. Then they led us to the reception centre, which had been our primary school. The 6 classrooms were almost full of our fellow Rwandan refugees. Everybody seemed to have sustained wounds: spear, machete or club wounds, with some who reportedly had been killed during the violent eviction. Only we were safe and sound, having opted not to resist.

Knowing how the Congolese craved so many of what they believed could only be owned by White colonialists, from tales of pupils who were my schoolmates, I’d got a bright idea. I’d approached my old man and earnestly whispered to him: “Papa, I have an idea. Please remove your shirt and spectacles and let me show you!”  Luckily, he’d easily obliged. I’d thus emerged from the bush, holding the shirt and specs aloft, to avoid being harmed. It is these that I’d offered to the boss.

If you want to know why it worked, approach anybody who’s ever lived in D.R. Congo. Ask them why the Congolese were surprised whenever they saw Kayibanda or Habyarimana as presidents of Rwanda. Whenever the Congolese saw either of these guys, they’d exclaim: “Un président sans lunettes?!”

To a Congolese, spectacles were the height of greatness! A president without spectacles was not worth his flag.

Al-Kethaffy should know his enemy’s soft spot. Why not dangle an oil field under his chin? In a jiffy, he’ll see himself waltzed back to his throne!

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