Imagine your whole world burning before your eyes, how would you react to such a situation. I survived that nightmare.
My name is Manu, and this is the story of how my whole life lost meaning. It is the story of how the quiet village of Kutungu became a center of death and despair, the story of how I lost my family to terrorism, and how my rose-colored glasses in which I saw the world shattered into a million pieces.
My village was one of those quiet, peaceful places where you rarely saw a fight because fights only broke out once in many years, and that was the result of everyone being content with their place in the village.
Farming was everyone’s main occupation, and everyone fed his or her family with what his or her farm produced. And if a situation arose where the farm products lacked what they needed, the village marketplace was a reliable place to buy what was missing.
The younger children in the village went to the town school, which was usually an hour’s walk from the village. The road they used to go to school ran next to the path that led to the village creek, and this led to a system where all the children attending school had to be in the village square an hour before school started so that they could walk along with the older children who were walking to the creek that morning. I was one of the older children who had to look after the younger ones as they walked to school.
We had a daily routine at home: every morning I dressed the twins and got them ready for school, then I took the big container used to fetch water from the creek, then we went to the village square to meet the others going to school – that was our routine, Mom prepared her goods for the market, and Dad went to work on the farm and check the animal traps that he had set.
The day began, as usual, everyone went about their business until the village was shaken by the first explosion. When we, who were at home, heard the sound, we rushed to the market square, for that is where we heard the sound, and what can only be described as horror was what we encountered.
Men dressed in black with masks on their faces were shooting indiscriminately, blood splattered on the surface, and dead bodies dotted the market square. I was shocked and didn’t know what to do, since my mother’s kiosk was in the middle of the market, and the twins were with her at the kiosk, wondering if their bodies were among the lifeless or if they had by sheer luck survived. I was helpless, watching the smoke rise from the torched stores and people running, fleeing from the bullets. What could have caused this, who could have caused such devastation in a once peaceful village – these were the questions that were haunting me as I fell to the ground and landed on my arm, which had been pierced by a stray bullet, surely this was the end, I thought, all that I had come to love had been ruined.
When I regained consciousness, the attending doctor told me that I was one of the few survivors and that the whole village had been burned. What was I to do, how was I to live if my family was gone? And now, years later, I remember the nightmares that tormented me at night and made life miserable.
Terrorist attacks have shattered dreams and caused irreparable damage. This is one of the many stories that people around the world have experienced.
War is not the answer, and its effects do not disappear over time.