WRITER: Kakwenza Rukirabashaija
In the first pages of the Banana Republic, there is a depiction of mercy and torture.
There is an unforgiving father who must show how merciless he is by cycling to school.
He appears to show the world and other learners that his son wets the bed.
He exposes the dirty bedding that his son lies on.
Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, the writer of this book is unforgiving on how the exposed misfortunes dog the character.
There is laughter, mercy and show of supremacy too.
Back to bed wetting, there is lack of enough investigation by the father on who exactly wets the bed. He has not taken time to know if it is the young boy or the herdsman.
Sadly, the son can’t argue with the father that it is not him who wets the bed at night. Of course, the son knows it is their herdsman who does it.
In this book, misfortunes also meet the employed, with the English teacher in the school having only one shirt.
The teacher, Mr. Maganya, however, could one day turn up in different attire, neat and good-looking from the obvious.
How times change!
The writer is a captive of order. He doesn’t seem to be in good books with the system of the day.
He has written a book, The Greedy Barbarian, that seems to have made him a wanted man and cannot see peace but random arrests that make him a visitor of the state numerous times.
A number of such anecdotes are the ones that make up this book.
All his misfortunes and arrests happened during the lockdown due to the corona virus pandemic.
Rukirabashaija’s arrests and torture are against his wish but he must cooperate with the law or else he won’t be alive to piece these anecdotes together.
He is arrested on an empty stomach, but for him to answer the questions, he must be fed, at least to wet the mouth so that the answers could flow.
The sleeping room in the questioning center is a toilet and stanch for that matter.
It is a place he cools down after his body has thoroughly interacted with blows and kicks. For the system, this would be referred to as “massage”.
The beatings don’t kill the writing in him, though. As a guest of the state, he doesn’t expect any better, either.
The food must be a sort of punctured beans and posho to accompany them, just to keep one alive.
Descriptively said, the food is unfit for human consumption but for a hungry inmate, this is a delicacy one will not hesitate to swallow!
What would you do with a chance to escape from custody?
He gets one at Iganga government offices but to keep peace with the law, he is just there waiting to see the legal procedures take shape for him to know what charges are preferred to him.
His feet are too weak to run and again, he may not run faster than the bullet.
The writer speaks for the speechless but thoughtful prisoners whose sole activity is to sleep and wake up to get time to kill the many lice that have hidden in their clothes, not uniform.
The lice are such undocumented prisoners who must cling to the clothes of the prisoners for survival. If only they would fly away and enjoy life outside prison.
As lice, you will not pity a prisoner who is served a meal a day and is unhealthy and living on less but here you are, sucking the little ounces of blood in him.
It is until you read this book that you find the real picture of prison life.
In a banana republic, writing does not thrive anyway but the many anecdotes that are recorded and all the events that are witnessed in such a situation can be captured and documented by the Rukirabashaijas of this world.
But wait, Rukirabashaija, you did not tell us whether you picked some lice from prison and whether they are thriving at home!
Will they survive in the open, and in the sun?
With all this having happened during a pandemic, you did not mention masking up!
The author of Banana Republic is a Lawyer and Novelist, and he is the 2021 Award winner of PEN PINTER prize for international writer of courage.
The reviewer is a news editor at The Scholar Media Africa.
You can also read: BOOK REVIEW: Cry, the Beloved Country