“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets” – Voltaire

“I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it’s such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her – Ellen DeGeneres

“There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, and nothing worth killing for” – Tom Robbins

 

I’ve been to this place before. It was a long time ago, probably four years ago. I think four years is a long time. I came with Azeez and the other children to gather grasses for the donkeys. They were too ill to walk out to the field to graze on their own. We hiked over the rolling steppe, taking care not to hit the rocks. The grasses were green and there would be enough for the animals. Now, the grass is littered with shell casings and marked by rocket craters. There is no sight of blood on the grass; maybe the rains have washed away the red stains. At this spot, a massacre had taken place. It could have been us four years ago; kids like us who came to fetch grass for the animals gunned down in broad day light.

They say rebellion never lies. In this case, there is no truth in this rebellion. No honesty! We were a peaceful lot before the rebels came out en masse. They’ve been tiny units who were easily crushed by the government. Everyone walked about doing their daily chores. There were still remnants of our culture and traditions. We also loved our religion. At least, I performed the Wudu and offered Salat five times a day. Well, sometimes four. Gradually, they grew bolder; the rebels…a godless lot professing Allah’s name.

Homeless and bruised, blood flowed in the stagnant waters. This is a ghost town. Every land we reach is dead. We pray the gunshots don’t grow louder. We pray the girl screaming in agony is not a friend, or worse, a sister. We were subjected to sleepless nights. Inhabitants of the land turned to refugees overnight. The fearless ones stayed behind; I was amongst the fearless. We formed the civilian vigilante to combat the rebels. We fought in the name of Allah. The elderly prayed for us before we embarked on an escapade; the maidens provided meals of kunu, fura and bean cakes. The younger ones sang warrior songs for us.

But this is not the life I wished for. Ever since I saw the white doctor as a kid, I had wanted to become a doctor. Oh, how I wished to be the first doctor from our village. Everyone would respect me and the maidens would be drooling over who would win my heart. I would be a king in my own territory. But here I was in the bushes, a locally made gun in hand with a spear arched on my back, laying in wait for the rebels.

We sit at nights listening to the increasingly familiar sounds outside. The crickets are quiet in their stead, the ratatat of automatic weapons, the worrisome whir of helicopters and the wailing of the innocents on their knees about to be executed.

We’ve been lucky at times. We usually catch the rebels unawares and slaughter them in hundreds. But on this day, the mercies of Allah deserted us. The detonation immediately followed by the heart rending cries of a comrade and the sound of a frightened friend nearby. It haunted me for seconds. And then, I felt the hot sensation on my abdomen, followed by my heart ripping off the chest. It was a set up, it was a trap. Multiple bombs had exploded in our territory as we lay in wait for the rebels. Death was very quick. There was no time to stare death in the face. The transition was peaceful. There were hundreds of us.

More were massacred in Baga that same day; women and children inclusive. Most of the women died clutching the younger ones in their hands. We died clutching our weapons in our hands. We were the real soldiers of Allah.

 

*In memory of those that lost their lives in Baga and to all the victims of terrorism worldwide*

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