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The Pendulum
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I turned and turned. A thousandth time. The bench I was sitting on was rough, and my buttocks were blistering. The sun was hurrying to set, yet the Mp wasn’t up. They said that he was tired– from the long flight from the city the previous night. He was just taking a royal nap, a six-hour-long nap. So it was prudent for us to be patient. We waited, forever waited.
At a time when wild winds of political change were blowing fiercely in the Republic of Aynek, most seasoned political bigwigs were beaten by the young energetic greenhorns. However, Mobutu withstood and triumphed over this. He had represented Lusimo Constituency in parliament for the last thirty years. But did he really represent his people or stomach? People ceased not to wonder. In those decades, many a children were born, married and bore children. This generation was damn sure that it was being led by an ancestor. Mobutu was among the few sharp-minded people who knew how sweet power tastes. So he held onto it with both hands and legs.

Among the Aynekians, there is a common saying that if you want a man to worship you, control what goes into his stomach. Aynek is a land of great hunger and poverty. Most irate politicians like Mobutu take advantage of this to bribe voters and live in parliament as if it is their home. He would come with lots of money like sand and scatter all over for his constituents to pick. This usually culminated into violent exchange of fists, kicks and tearing of each other. The fact that he could bring us money, he told us, was an indication of great things to come. Who was there– man enough- to challenge him? We elected and re-elected him. Forever. But once a brilliant young turk rose to challenge him. Rumour had it that he was a government’s project– a conspiracy to weaken the opposition’s vast influence. Mobutu has been enduring the cold in opposition for all his years of disservice to us until recently when he decamped to join the government. ‘‘We need to eat too”, he came telling us. ” And you can’t get any meat to eat when you fight from outside. It’s inviting hunger fighting those in the slaughter house. Wa khwibakilo somukhoma tawe! What’s prudent is to join them. They may sympathize with you and throw a bone to you to lick.”

Mobutu didn’t take the challenge kindly. Nobody likes challenges, especially those designed to break him. He furiously condemned his political enemies and the government for conspiring to put him down. ”They don’t enjoy seeing me striving to emancipate my people from financial slavery,” he cried, then cursed: ”Them foes! Them foes!” He came closer to us– listening keenly to our grievances and literary raining money–than ever in the history of our constituency. To most
of us, it was like god has left the comfort of heaven to be with his people. Hell distanced itself from us for some time. That year, Mobutu won the election with a landslide. His opponent garnered 99 votes only.

Mobutu’s decision to ditch the opposition and join the ruling party wasn’t a welcome idea to anyone. The opposition condemned them for betraying the ideals you have cherished for ages. More so, it was a shot in the back for it meant loss of a massive number of votes from the Western region. A few skeptical brains in the ruling party didn’t like Mobutu at all. One is because they were afraid that he could on a political mission to mess the party and enable the opposition to
triumph. Two is that they knew him as a smart optimist who could maneuver and reap the most. So they started fighting him from the word go. But Mobutu was unbwogable! He is a grand master at political in-fighting; there was nothing new to him.
The newest constitution had created other newest political offices. Like the US, we were going to elect governors and senators in the forthcoming election. Mobutu, like any other politician of his age, saw this and expressed interest in being a senator. ‘‘As you know my people,” he said, ”I’ve served you as an mp for ages and I feel that I’m now too big for that seat. Please give me this bigger one… I’ll be in good position to fight for more money to be sent to our county. You see, such a tough task requires a fearless and no-nonsense fellow like me…” Most opportunists thought that senators and governors will be earning well. They ran for them. Mobutu won the election as his party was part of the Jubilee coalition. The most popular coalition with funny ideologies.

In its campaigns, the Jubilee flag bearers emphasized their desire to foster technological advancement. They pledged to start this by giving every kid a laptop. In addition, they said that maternal health care would be free. Most of us liked it and therefore, to benefit immensely, impregnated our wives again and again. Who didn’t want laptops in their house? But it’s sad to note that to date, nobody has ever seen the face of the Jubilee laptop. And with most schools in
pathetic conditions, one wonders if the laptops would be of any good to hunger-stricken and jigger-infested toddlers were they to be brought today. I don’t want to imagine what happened to the so-called-maternal-health. But things are bad today. Blatant corruption, tribalism, impunity, ignorance, insecurity, poverty etc.
We are under siege!

We have never heard from Mobutu since he went to the senate. His party, which is in power, has not honoured any single promise it made to us. Instead, it is working hard to finish us.

© wafula p’khisa