Kono passed away! -What! Kono is dead! Kaweke was surprised. Kono was his best friend. Kaweke was with him last night taking some beer, but this morning Kono’s wife came weeping at Kaweke’s home to deliver this bad news to him. Kaweke felt as if he would faint on the ground after hearing the news. Many people with sad faces surrounded the widow. All Kaweke could remember was the story Kono was telling him, when they were sharing beer last night on Kaweke’s veranda. He started to remember how he and his wife spent their time last night describing the many tragic events Dzaleka society was experiencing, hoping that it would help Kono to live safely in Dzaleka.
That night, as they sat comfortably, Kono told him that when he was at the borehole in the morning, he quarreled with a certain mom, who angrily told him that the water he is fetching will mark the end of Kono’s life on this Earth, once finished.
“Aah!” Kaweke was surprised to get such frustrating news concerning his friend. “My friend you are a new arrival in Dzaleka; You should first have studied this place and know how to behave in it.”
“How is Dzaleka different from other places in the world?” Kono asked.
“K-k-k-k,” Kaweke laughed in agony, he knew that his friend was in big trouble since he told him the forty year-old mom’s terrifying words. “Please allow me to recall some of the tragic events that occurred in Dzaleka,” Kaweke answered.
Kaweke’s wife interrupted to inform them that the table was already set. They both approached the table and started to share their meal. “Uuh! Can you keep telling me about the people in the camp?” Kono inquired while they were eating.
“When I was cooking, I understood what you were saying,” Kaweke’s wife stepped in, continuing, “let me tell you! I know both of you don’t know what happens here in Dzaleka!” Both men stopped diving their nsima* in the delicious sauce and prepared themselves to hear what was what about the camp. “When I first arrived in Malawi in 2011, I discovered people poisoning others in this camp. I mean If you are given UNHCR resettlement to a third country, your so-called friends will do whatever it takes to poison you, especially in a drink.”
“Do you mean Kaweke will be the first person to poison me if I get that favor to be resettled abroad?” Kono cracked a joke.
“Why not?” They all burst out laughing. “Don’t trust anyone in Dzaleka: me, my husband, even church leaders. For example, the wife of the pastor of the church across the main road from Dzaleka, just to the left corner of the secondary school as coming from Dzaleka.”
They all shouted aloud, “Canada church! Yes, We buried her after doctors diagnosed her with poison.”
“What poisoned her?” Kono inquired.
“She was killed because she was waiting for a resettlement program, to travel to America,” said Kaweke’s wife.
“That is simply jealousy,” Kono said.
She added, “you both saw Johnson, our neighbor, just here at Kawale One, how his intelligent young boy was bewitched by mulonge**. Do you know people who bewitch with this disease? They are said to be from…where are they from?”
Kono who was going to mention the tribe said to be responsible for bewitching mulonge, but Kaweke interrupted him. They all murmured to one another, “they are our neighbors, let them bewitch us after hearing that we are discussing their cultural practice. In their culture, whether you are a pastor or not, one must have something that protects him, and much more…”
“Why would these cruel people bewitch others?” furiously enquired Kono.
“The boy was bewitched because he advised his collegue not to date girls under the age of eighteen. He advised him when the colleague was together with a fourteen year-old girlfriend. The colleague felt guilty and embarrassed and stormed out, declaring angrily that he would show him that he was a man. The boy was found dead in the morning,” Kaweke’s wife gossised. Kono was terrified to learn what had happened to this helpless victim. “Not only that, but a Burundian refugee leader whose name I forget was recently targeted right here in Dzaleka, didn’t you hear?”
“I did, indeed!” Kono responded desperately. He remembered arguing with the threatening mom at the borehole, the one who insisted that when the water he was fetching was finished, his life would be too.
Kaweke’s wife resumed, “unknown individuals threw a grenade at him, and he is now in the hospital.”
“Why was he the target among all the others in Dzaleka?” Kono wondered.
“I don’t know the answer to your question, but I believe the police do. Many events occurred here in Dzaleka, so I suppose you should learn how to interact with others in this multicultural environment. You are aware that we live with people from various cultural backgrounds, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Somalia, and many other countries. Otherwise, you won’t be able to live safely in Dzaleka.”
Someone was knocking on the gate while they were talking. Kaweke’s wife left to open it. It was their Congolese neighbor. Kono did not want the visitor to find him there, so he thanked the Kaweke family for their hospitality, and returned home to sleep.
Kaweke was awakened in the morning by the cries from the weeping widow, who informed him that her husband, Kono, had died early that morning. She was surrounded by many women with sad faces who escorted her to Kaweke’s to deliver the news. Kaweke’s wife with tears in her eyes, stood up and took the widow by the shoulders and together with these other women they went to Kono’s home place.
Arriving, they went straight into the house and found a group of women from the neighborhood singing gospel songs just to cool down the family. Others left to fetch water to prepare the body for the funeral. Kaweke’s wife could not leave the widow alone. She stayed with her.
Meanwhile, a group of young men finished fixing up a tent and some of them sat on benches while discussing refugee resettlement. Others were bringing Ludo games, cards, and chess, so that after the burial they could start to play. Because in Kono‘s culture, it is forbidden to play such kinds of games while the dead body is still in the house.
A little group gathered around a Congolese leader, discussing the reintegration of refugees, something that made them happy as they were all waiting for the end to their troubles. When they were discussing these topics, Kono was forgotten, though he would be remembered again when they took him to the graveyard. And when they returned from there, he would be forgotten forever.
*Nsima is a maize bread
**Mulonge is a disease that, after you’re bewitched, you can only survive it for several days.
2 April, 2023