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Goretti Kyomuhendo: Waiting
This is only a short novel – around 110 pages – and has little plot but still tells an effective story of a group of Ugandans, living in a remote village but caught up in political and military events not of their making. The novel is set in 1979, at the end of the Idi Amin era. Amin is being driven out and his soldiers are fleeing North, pursued by the Tanzanians, known in this book as the Liberators. The people of this village are awaiting the arrival of Amin’s soldiers, knowing that they will rape, pillage and loot but are, of course, also awaiting the arrival of the Liberators. We follow the story of one family and their immediate neighbours. The story is narrated by a teenager, Alinda. Her mother is pregnant and expecting the baby very soon. Her brother, Tendo, acts as lookout and her father is making preparations. Her nine-year old sister, Maya, still thinks of it as something of a game. Her grandmother – Kaaka – is taking the whole matter quite stoically. We also learn of her uncle, Kembo, who has fallen on hard times. The family is Christian but he had converted to Islam to get benefits under Amin’s regime and done quite well, with four wives and a good business. He had fallen out with his brother, Alinda’s father, as a result. Things had gone wrong and he had reconverted to Christianity and gone to work for a sawmill owned by an Indian. However, the Indian had been expelled from Uganda by Amin so Kembo has suffered since. The neighbours include a woman known merely as the Lendu woman, as she is from Lendu in Zaire, and Nyinabarongo. Nyinabarongo means mother of twins as her two children, though not twins, both had birth anomalies. She had returned to her village because the twins allegedly caused her in-laws to suffer burns.
There are preparations to be made for the arrival of the Amin soldiers. Valuable items are buried in a pit and the people sleep in the fields. However, Alinda’s mother (the parents are never named) cannot move and, of course, she soon goes into labour, with Alinda assisting. When the soldiers finally arrive, most of the family is hidden in the bush but they can see the soldiers confront Kaaka, who is looking after mother and child. It all ends disastrously for the family but the soldiers move on, running from the Liberators. When the Liberators finally turn up, things are much better, as they are generally well behaved and there is a certain amount of fraternisation. Gradually, the family and the village put their lives back together. It is an interesting little story of a side show of a nasty war but shows how even the ordinary people, well removed from the main action, can get get caught up, as we have seen in other African novels, and how all they can do is hope for the best and get on with their lives afterwards.
First published in 2007 by Feminist Press at the City University of New York