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Harold and the drunken spirit

By Peter Theuri | June 7th 2021

The secret is to be famous. If you ask Harold, it does not matter how that fame comes. When I showed him clips of Embarambamba and explained how the artiste transformed from an unknown village character sliding up and down trees in the name of music and to be well known nationally, he was impressed.

In his eyes was the look of fulfilment; he strongly felt that his message in church had at least helped a man reach his destiny.

“It is not about the hows,” he says, “but the ifs. No one wants to know how I became the most loved priest in Gitegi. But they would be concerned with if I became the most loved pastor in Gitegi.”

Someone raised his hand and asked Harold how he had become a pastor and who it was that had lied to him that the village loved him. You should have seen the scowl on Harold’s face as he answered me, calling me a hopeless ingrate who would never be accepted, or loved, by the village.

It was on theatrics that Harold gained the fame that he enjoys. And it is theatrics that maintain his fame in the village.

You will remember that Harold was the first man to own a car in the village. It was a pickup truck that now sits in the backyard, decaying, having been grounded after knocking down countless dogs in the village. 

That pickup was stolen a few ridges away from a settler and repainted at night, with Harold later using it as a taxi to ferry everything that needed to be moved.

The only thing that he failed to move was mountains, which Faith came hoping he would after yet another con pastor had challenged his congregation, asking them why they disputed that Faith could move mountains.

Harold, desolate after the hi court, the court of uphill and the soup rim court, which sits around a cauldron of soup of wisdom and dips straws through the rim, decided that the pickup should be grounded, turned to the bottle.

Sleeping in trenches, missing his way home, being beaten up by night runners, and stopping a presidential motorcade that had strayed into the village, made him a celebrity.

He was constantly on people’s lips for all the wrong reasons.

Once, drunk, Harold fell into a freshly dug grave just hours before a burial. During the funeral ceremony, it was discovered that someone was singing incoherently from inside the grave, and a few theorists who had read the books of traditional practices suggested that Harold should be buried alive; it had to be the ancestors calling him into the grave.

At the shopping centre, Harold is a legend. He has debts that exceed the worth of all the shops combined. He has eaten a truckload of food from the hotel on credit and has probably gulped down one pickup of alcohol that he will never pay for.

“Pete, what you should understand is that it does not matter what you will be remembered for. What matters is if you will be remembered - at all. Once you are gone, young man, even I will not remember you,” he told me after church, lambasting me for embarrassing him.

This man has done things none of you would want to be associated with.

How he was declared a man filled with the spirit is the best story you would want to hear.

Years ago, Harold went to the pub as usual and, while drinking, starting playing his con games on his fellow revellers. It was not his day and he failed to convince them why they should give him money to literally “buy myself time to pay my debts, and I will pay yours too”.

They chased him out of the bar and he ran straight to where the then pastor used to hold his sermons, under a tree.

Harold climbed the tree.

It was Sunday and service soon began.

The pastor was explaining how the spirit came down when a tired Harold slumped onto the ground, unconscious.

Literally, the spirit had come down.

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