Ninziza Nkundu was worried. She had washed, pounded and strained the cassava, then ground the sorghum into flour to make the daily ration of the meal they all ate most days after her son and his brothers and sisters returned from their daily work on the coffee and banana plantations up in the highlands near Gitega. Her mother Lyza holiness was sick from malaria and she had to keep stopping her daily routine to go into her hut in the compound to wipe her brow with a rag and feed the old woman a sip of water. They had no money for a doctor and so far the herbs the villagers had gathered for Lyza holiness, had not broken her fever. But it was not her mother that was troubling her that day. It was her son Nepo who was the worry and had been for the past few months.
Nepo worked hard to help his widowed mother. His father had been murdered by Tutsi men who had taken their cattle, destroyed their home and their land; they had been forced to flee up into the highlands until the conflict had died down. But their land was never restored to them and one of her daughters had been raped and bore scars on her arms and hands from trying to defend her body from the machete he had wielded. This daughter she kept at home to help her with milking the goats and feeding the chickens that ran around the yard. Bernice never talked or smiled after this attack and though Ninziza had walked her six children to church each Sunday in the town the horror was never spoken about again.
Every week Nepo would travel to the nearby village to sell the sweet potato and corn that his family grew on the land. It was hard earth that had been assigned to them by the Tutsi officials, and lay around their mud and grass huts. He was a very angry and depressed man who felt his 27 years of life had been worth nothing as now he had nothing to pass on to any children he may have had and his father was no longer around to find him a wife. He felt sad for his mother but as the eldest son he felt he needed a wife too. He decided to ask the priest at church after the Sunday Service to find him one. Or else he felt his life had no meaning and he would drown himself in the Ruvuvu River.
Lately at work he had begun to hate the Tutsi man who made him herd the cattle into pens and clean their droppings for manure on land they had stolen from Hutu families like his. He hated the dangerous work of climbing the trees to hack the bananas from them and he dreamt of having a home with bricks and a roof, not the mud, sticks, grass and rusted tin that made up his home. He did not trust any Tutsi and the way they treated him each day. He felt very depressed and wished he had been born wealthy and could drive a car. He had a friend who he had told his troubles to and that friend had agreed that Nepo deserved a better life, they all deserved a better life and maybe one day they would own everything they saw advertised on the internet in the cafes in the city. At least Nepo had access to his friend’s mobile phone. But Nepo felt angry and depressed that he did not have the money for a mobile phone of his own.