All the events in a Moonless, Starless Sky occurred in living, breathing memory. They are not stories with nicely wrapped up endings. The lengthy title is a dead giveaway. To paraphrase Gramps Morgan, these stories are not smiling stories. To be honest, the realizations I made while reading this book made me question how much access I really know about the Africa I claim to be woke about.
Uganda, Mauritania, Nigeria and Somalia. A young couple, a lawyer, a schoolgirl, an auditor and a basketball player. Just ordinary people in the way you and I are; in the sense that their reality could be ours at some point. However, geography bequeathed them a most cruel destiny. All in the twentieth and twenty first centuries.
In this feat of literary journalism, Alexis Okeowo gives depth and breadth to happenings too important to be reduced to soundbites in cramped fast moving news cycles. Here, the fickle flame of the candle of heroism burns on in the gale of extremism . Neither fleeing nor conforming are an option. Therefore, common people rise. And are pulled right back down with shackles and weights for good measure. Yet again, they rise. Down they go again. They shouldn’t rise but they do.
Liberty, that precious, delicate right, is fleeting in so much of the worldAlexis Okeowo
Heroes in living memory do not wear capes
In Northern Nigeria, Boko Haram wreaks havoc. Children are kidnapped from schools en masse and taken into the bush. Grenades and suicide bombs go off in crowded markets. Literally, people experience war at their doorsteps. Who rises up to the tyrants? An ageing auditor with nothing but old hunting rifles, farm tools and a band of volunteers. Miles away, a kidnapped schoolgirl escapes from Boko Haram and continues with her education. Meanwhile, their government does what governments excel at; seeming to do everything while in reality doing absolutely nothing.
Across the map in Somalia, playing basketball is one of the a million ways through which you could die. That’s if you’re a woman. And it does not matter that you shoot hoops clad like an eskimo in a country whose lowest temperature ever recorded is 17.8 degrees Celsius.
Northwards in the tiny Mauritania, indigenous people live in slavery. Mentally shackled, black men, women and children know no other life. Generations within living memory have lived lives of unpaid labour, beatings, denial of education and inhumane treatment. In 2021! I guess it’s too much to hope that Africa would guarantee the rights of Africans, on African soil.
In the pearl of Africa, the Lord’s Resistance Army does very ungodly things. Or maybe they are literally resisting the Lord. Children are taken prisoner then turned into ruthless killers. Later, they return to their home areas to kill. The terminator can only imagine this ruthlessness. In captivity, child soldiers wed brides whose homes they terrorised. Ultimately, the lucky ones return to reintegrate into a society that does not know what to do with them. Neither do they know what to do with that society.
Book A Read: African Literature books you should read at least once in your life. (down memory lane)
Finding the Stars
In our little, cooler corners of hell, the fires of our continent warrant little attention. We move, oblivious to what a lack of liberty does to the lives of ordinary men and women.
Dive into A Moonless Starless Sky. It reaffirms the fickleness of our liberties. At the end of it all, every second counts in the fight. There are no superheroes coming, just ordinary men and women facing a bleak existence.
By the way, what are some of the stories that warrant our attention? What are the threats to our Kenyan liberties?
Not even religion guarantees protection from extremism. Thinking about it, we (the young) loudly proclaim revolution in future tense while in actual sense it’s here. That future revolution in our minds holds powerful slogans, perfect marches and red elegant berets. In the revolution of today,, the couple in Acholi land tries to raise a family after a childhood and young adulthood in the theatre of war. Aisha plays basketball. The Chibok girl goes to school. The elder has no time to be an old man; extremism calls.
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