By Oyunga Pala
I still sleep with a Somali simi sword under my mattress and a carved club with a knob the size of a baby’s head within reach.
Fortunately, it has been years since I had to step outside in vest and shorts wielding a club to repel opportunistic thieves.
I picked up these self-defense instincts in circa 90s BC (Before Cellphones), living on the fringes of Kawangare slums. Our abodes were rows of one roomed houses with communal bathrooms and toilets located within a single compound. They were managed by a punitive landlady who rationed power and water.
Back then, thugs operated with impunity. They arrived in gangs of over 15 men, held the entire plot hostage for hours and not only robbed and fondled your women, but also ate up any food they found.
The harassment was frequent and there was a looming mass exodus until a nondescript individual moved into one of the vacant houses.
He was known as “Japolo”, a religious devotee from the Legio Maria sect, known for their energised worship ceremonies.
The mason who doubled as a charismatic preacher had a sinewy body shaped from a lifetime of physical labour and possessed an amicable disposition.
Shortly after his arrival, the bad boys returned for another post-midnight raid. Loud noises emanated from the first house in the row and we cowardly prayed in our rooms hoping to endure the torment unscathed.
It would take us awhile to realise what was going on outside our securely bolted doors. The rising crescendo of noises turned into a blood-cuddling scream, followed by what sounded like a stampede.
Then there was an interlude of silence before we heard a deeply Dholuo accented voice shouting, “Wanaume wote otoke inje (all men step outside),” repeatedly. When I eventually stepped outside cautiously, the sight was one to behold.