By Farah Adan
A MESSAGE TO THE WARRING CLANS IN WAJIR AND MANDERA COUNTIES.
As the Degodia and Garre tribes are carrying out attacks and retaliatory attacks in Mandera and Wajir Counties, I am hurt more than anybody else. Allow me to tell you why?
People say falling in love is the most beautiful feeling in the world and I believe that must be the reason the journey of love is no catwalk. And as I hear and rehear the story of how my Dad fell in love with my Mom, I can’t help but agree that love does find its own way.
It was in Elwak, decades ago, that my dad first saw my mom. He is from the Degodia clan while she is from the Garre clan. He still vividly remembers that she was wearing a shining blue guntina* and a beautiful maroon garbasaar* while he must have worn his regular khaki apron.
My father was a truck driver and regularly criss-crossed the Nairobi – Garissa – Wajir – Mandera road transporting assorted goods to the North and on his return transporting back to Kenya our main cash crop – livestock, hides and skins.
One day, while on his normal duties and offloading items at a wholesale in Elwak town, a group of young ladies who were accompanied by their mother walked into the shop to buy sugar and wheat flour, the two items that top the shopping list of families from the country side without forgetting tea leaves.
As fate would have it, the youngest member of that group would be my mother. But that did not come on a silver platter. My father had to undergo and endure untold experiences to win her because he happened to be a lion that was hunting in an unfamiliar territory.
“It was love at first sight” reckons my dad.
“No sooner had the family walked in than the young lady caught my attention” he remembers. And with the precision that a lion attacks an unsuspecting pray, he wasted no time to make a kill!
In those days, meeting a young lady and convincing her that you love her was unimaginable. First of all, women were to be seen and not heard in those days. They covered their mouth and either looked down or sideways as she talked to a man, if at all that happened. There is no way you could tell a lady that you love her simply because there was no free mixing of sexes as we see nowadays.
If you happen to develop interest in a girl, custom had it that you take a few kilos of sugar and tea leaves, and in the company of a few respected elders, visit their family to ask for her hand in marriage.
The family will then reciprocate the good brotherly gestures by unconditionally releasing the young beauty to her new family members.
When the young man that would be my father tried to take the first move to show interest, he was handicapped by language barrier. So he decided to seek the assistance of the shop owner.
Unfortunately, the shop owner was also eyeing one of the young beauties and never wanted competition. In the process, the unthinkable happened. My dad was devastated when one of his really good friends decided to unfriend him. It was a serious issue in those days, unfriending a friend was a real-life event and not the Facebook phenomenon witnessed nowadays, and requesting someone to be a friend wasn’t a click away, as it is today either.
Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. My father had to devise means to achieve his mission and at last landed the coveted prize, of course after undergoing the process of setting up a family. He was helped by elders from the Garre community with whom he never met before. They helped him because although he was from a different clan from theirs, they still shared a lot in common – from the physical looks to the Islamic religion.
A permanent bond was born.
Children with Degodia and Garre blood were born. These children had the privilege of belonging to two wonderful communities. They were ably raised without any discrimination by both communities for decades.
My maternal uncles paid school fees for some of our siblings while my paternal uncles did the same. We stayed together and mixed freely until the onset of tribal animosity between the Degodia and Garre which has currently reached fever pitch.
Although we belong to both communities, today each side looks upon us with suspicion, thanks to the persistent clashes between the two sides.
We found ourselves looked upon as sympathizers of the enemy by both sides. We were privileged to belong to both communities at one time. Today, we are condemned to belong to none!
Nowadays, when I meet my abuya*, he thinks I was sent by my abera* to finish him and vice versa, in this regard, I decided to take a pen and a paper and appeal to my uncles to stop the bloodshed in the spirit of the wonderful relationship we once had. We belong to each other; we belong to the same religion which abhors the killing of an innocent life. Let’s stop the madness and forgive each other!
Every time you kill each other, we are hurt more than anybody else. When one side is attacked, the other side celebrates. When the attacked side retaliates, the other side mourns. However, to the class we belong, who happen to have roots in both ends, we mourn continuously without a break!
Enough is enough! Put down the guns and bring peace to our beautiful people, In the interest of your children and grand children who share with me the pain of belonging to both sides, let us stop the bloodshed.
Meaning of terms used:
Guntiina = Traditional flowing robes worn by Somali women to cover the lower part of their body.
Garbasaar = Traditional flowing robes worn by Somali women to cover the upper part their body.
Abuya = Maternal uncle
Abeera = Paternal unlce
Mr. Farah is a child at crossroads as a result of the tribal animosity between his paternal and maternal uncles. He is appealing to both sides to unconditionally stop the madness that is tribal clashes in Wajir and Mandera Counties.