Story 2 of 7 More Detail
02 The Last FightJoseph Nzioka
Located in the northeast of Nairobi, Korogocho has for a long time been one of the poorest sectors of the region; and over time, has become one of the central refuges for those fleeing the dictatorial regime that has kept Kenya oppressed for years.
Many dissidents lived there. Hidden in the depths of the humble citadel after failed attempts to rise up in arms. Mkali, one of the men who had led such a rebellion, lived and worked there as a merchant, trying to deal with a lifetime of personal losses.
A long time ago, during a military raid on his former residence in an upmarket part of the city, Mkali’s entire family was killed. In those days, Fisi Corporation used to carry out purges to find and destroy any traces of rebellion across the whole country. He tried to get his wife and kids to safety and failed. They were arrested and taken to a detention centre on the outskirts of Nairobi. Mkali was put to work and his family executed. Mkali was eventually able to escape with the help of other prisoners.
With revenge in mind, he formed a rebel group along the other convicts he had escaped with. They also got aid from other dissidents, as he had planned an attack on the government. They designed and schemed for five years, but in the end, it extracted a terrible price with many of the rebels losing their lives and the attack ending in failure.
A year later, after the rebel’s failed attempt, he abandoned everything and went to live in a small cabin in Korogocho, selling second-hand clothes and scraps, spending the little money he made on alcohol and pills.
Even though from time to time the military came into the neighbourhood in search of rebels, Mkali managed to hide well. Escaping on more than one occasion. He knew that if he were to be caught, he would surely be executed. Although it would have been great to end his senseless existence once and for all, being killed by the military was not an honourable option for him.
One day, as he was drinking at a local near his house, a young man came up and sat near him. The bar was just a dingy little cabin made from an improvised wooden counter and a few chairs. Looking at the young man, he carefully placed a pill he had been holding in his right hand back into his shirt pockets and grabbed a drink. What he had been staring at in his hand was a cyanide pill, rolling it as he tried to convince himself that by taking it, all his problems and misfortunes would be over.
At first glance, the young man did not seem out of place, but there was a certain keenness in his eyes that made you look at him twice. He swirled his drink around occasionally taking a sip but never saying a word. His face wrinkling with distaste every time he took a sip. What they were both drinking was a bitter illicit spirit called Changaa.
“I always say, if you want to die, die for a good reason, not like a coward. It would be a shame if that were to happen after such a great feat” Mkali looked up in surprise. The young man was speaking, but he was looking out in the crowded slum. “Look at you, now you only dedicate yourself to selling garbage and drinking this lousy alcohol…”
Mkali looked around before turning back to the young man “You talking to me?”
“I only see two people in here” He answered.
“What do you want?” Mkali asked looking down at his drink while his right hand reached for the pill in his pocket. He was convinced this guy had been sent by the government.
The young man motioned for him to stop. “Well, I came here to talk to along with your old group”.
The words hit Mkali like a shot Changaa, he was now sure that this was a spy under government orders. But, before he could say anything, the guy continued speaking.
“What you did last year was something incredible, even though you did not succeed. Many others with more resources than you had didn’t get as far as you did”.
“You know who I am?” Mkali asked.
“Let’s see. A year ago, you led a group of rebels in an attempt to take over the facilities of the Fisi Corporation building and put an end to central control. A plan you have worked on for years. But,” Hi lifted a single finger in the air “There were certain things you didn’t anticipate. The biggest being the building is practically autonomous. He stopped to take a swig of his drink, grimacing as he did and continued. “A construction with its own mind, and on each floor, a separate security system ran by an armed bot. It was a miracle you and your small group managed to survive at all.”
“And now you have come to arrest me, right? I suppose there’s a whole unit out there waiting for us,” said Mkali in resignation as he drank some of the liquor he had in the glass. He knew that he would not let them capture him alive.
“Don’t be so pessimistic” the man replied. “I came here to propose something. I came here to get you and your men.”
Having said that, the man formally introduced himself. His name was Ron, and, according to him, belonged to an organisation that for years had been coordinating the activities of several rebel groups around the country.
Mkali didn’t trust him one bit and still suspected he was setting a trap. Although he did seem too young to be an undercover government agent.
“Do you have any proof of who you are or something?” said Mkali. “You’ve said many interesting things, but what makes you think I’m going to believe you go with you?”
“Because after he contacted us, we decided to come to you and listen to what he had to say,” a voice spoke behind them. Mkali turned and saw the surviving members of his group all standing him.
Mkali was surprised since he didn’t think that his friends would take such a risk knowing what they had to lose. Many of them had decided to live their lives normally, without taking any chance that could expose them. His group were as untrusting as him, so he thought this guy had to be something big for them to make that decision. The old friends, glad to meet again, raised a toast to friendship and to the comrades who had fallen along the way. Afterwards, they briefly discussed Ron.
“Not only did I bring them”, said Ron, “but as a guarantee that I’m not lying, I put my life in your friends’ hands”.
Ron showed Mkali a little device on his neck, about the size of a button. “This is an explosive device. I let one of your men put it on my neck to show you that you can trust me, giving you the right to use it in case I betrayed them at some point”.
They agreed to leave the dingy bar and head to Mkali’s home. His house was a small hut in terrible condition, with only a few bits of furniture, an old stove and instead of a refrigerator, an old cooler with some food. Empty bottles, cigarette butts and papers were strewn all over the place.
“A year ago, you carried out a failed coup to overthrow the government. It failed because, despite all your preparation, you did not count on the fact that the Fisi Corporation building is basically a living machine. The building is controlled by the same artificial intelligence that holds the reins of the central power all over the nation, with the ability to anticipate and initiate countermeasures all by itself”.
“That damn tower is the source of everything bad that’s happened to this country; we had to do something”, said Mkali.
“We did everything we could, but it was useless in the end,” said another man in the group.
“The problem is that you need someone to guide you and help you from the outside. But you must start from below. You cannot enter a building like that without first attacking its systems. You went straight to the action”, Ron said.
“And what are we supposed to do with this information?” Mkali asked. “Why are you here?”
“I can get you to succeed this time around, but I need you to do your part, too” Ron answered. “You understand the weapons and the logistics, and I can guide you through a much more effective way to achieve your goals. We have been looking for you for a long time Mkali, and the reason for this is that you and your men are perhaps the only ones with the tactical skills and training to fulfil this mission. The five years you spent planning the raid gives you a unique edge”.
Mkali and the others were not really convinced. From the large group of men and women who went to the Fisi Corporation Tower, only about six remained, and only a few made it out unscathed. They deliberated amongst themselves for a while before Mkali spoke.
“I’m sorry, Mr Ron, but we do not believe that we can repeat that adventure again. We spent more than five years planning everything in the most thorough way possible, and even so, we still failed. We were more than thirty people then, and now we are only the few you see here. We appreciate that you think so highly of us, but we prefer to leave it, live our lives as well as we can, and not worry about it anymore. Also, didn’t you say other groups were fighting? Well, let them try it, then. We did what we could. It’s over now”.
“I have a family now,” said one of the men named Matt, who was about 40 years old. “I don’t want to put my wife and kid in such risk, and if I die, who’s going to take care of them?”
“Many of us have new lives now,” said another man. “I have a little business here; I like my life with no surprises, and I’d prefer to continue like that”.
Ron watched them in silence for a few minutes. “You are afraid of failing again and prefer to stay here, in your comfort zone. He said. Finally speaking “But I’ll tell you this: This country needs as many people as possible to be to free itself and progress. If we let ourselves be overwhelmed by the fear of failure, we will be giving our freedom to the oppressors” Now looking at each and every one of them “I know it is not easy, and it’s even harder after the setback you suffered last year. But we must try. We must reorganise and start all over again until we achieve our goals.” His voice had risen, and he was almost shouting “Do you think staying here will be safe? Sooner or later, they will discover you, and you’ll be executed along with your families and friends. Are you willing to die in such a dishonourable way without even having defended yourselves?”
Everyone looked at each other. There was a long silence, after which, Mkali spoke once more. “What guarantee do we have that this time we will be successful? For me, it would finally be an opportunity to die with honour, but maybe the rest doesn’t share my point of view”.
“None”, said Ron. “Because it’s not about that. Those who are going to fight do it without knowing if they will win or not. But still, they struggle because they want to win, and that is what motivates them and makes them stronger. And that is precisely what I want from you. I want you to believe in yourself and fight, without caring about the result, but at the same time looking for that result to be favourable. And, even if you fail, hopefully, you will have the opportunity to learn from that and try again”.
The men turned and started talking amongst themselves. Then, Mkali replied, “These men new lives here now. Some of them have families and people to protect. I might have nothing to lose, and personally, I really don’t care if I die, at least, as I said, I would die with honour, but the guys have too much at risk”.
“I need to protect my family,” said Matt stepping forward, “and maybe you’re right. So, I’d prefer to fight for them instead of waiting to be discovered and executed…”
The others didn’t talk, but they seemed to have reached a consensus. Mkali spoke once again. “Well, I think you’ve convinced us. None of us is going to allow anyone in the group to go alone, and besides, my friends definitively don’t want to see their children growing up under the current conditions. We are all with you. We want to try and be part of the change, and we will fight for this to happen. And I want a chance to avenge my family.”
“Excellent!” said, Ron. “Then it’s time to leave”.
They all left, and after heading to the outskirts of the Korogocho where an Anti-G vehicle awaited them.
“We’ve been waiting for you! We had a feeling you’d say yes” said a voice from inside the vehicle. “Come on in!”
The seven boarded the vehicle, and it rose up in the air turning to speed towards the city. No matter the outcome, Mkali was ready to try again, to fight for the freedom of his people and for a chance to exact his vengeance. Once again he had purpose in his life, and although the chances of victory were slim and he knew he may not return, Mkali felt alive once again.
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