Mo­hammed Naseehu Ali

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1 The mu­sic we heard on our ra­dios that morn­ing was noth­ing new to our ears; it was what the sol­diers played when­ever they make a coup. The brassy, in­stru­men­tal mil­i­tary mu­sic had been play­ing since dawn, and ev­ery now and then a deep male voice in­ter­rupted with the same an­nounce­ment: “Fel­low coun­try­men and women. The New Ghana Pro­le­tariat Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Coun­cil, N. G. P. R. C., is now in full con­trol of the Castle and the ra­dio sta­tions in all nine re­gional cap­i­tals. We ad­vise ev­ery­body to re­main calm and to stay tuned for a speech. By the Leader of the Revo­lu­tion. At ten o’clock.” Revo­lu­tion? It was the first time we had heard the word, and it sounded more se­ri­ous than the coup d’état we were used to. At five to ten, the mu­sic stopped abruptly. It was fol­lowed by what sounded like an ar­gu­ment or scuf­fle in the back­ground. Ev­ery­thing and ev­ery­body— even the lizards that roamed the street’s crevices bob­bing their heads wan­tonly—froze. “Good morn­ing, com­rades, coun­try­men and women.” The new leader’s voice, loud and hoarse, shook the tiny speak­ers of our tran­sis­tor ra­dios. “My name is Sergeant Fran­cis Wil­ber­force. I am speak­ing on be­half of the New Ghana Pro­le­tariat Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Coun­cil.” We im­me­di­ately no­ticed how dif­fer­ent his tongue was from ours. He sounded like some­one who had lived over­seas for a long long time. His blɛ, some even swore, was a true English man’s English.

“We seized power in or­der to give it back to you, the peo­ple,” the new leader con­tin­ued, his voice awe- in­spir­ing and up­lift­ing. “We seized power in or­der to cor­rect the in­jus­tices that have taken place in this coun­try since in­de­pen­dence. Ed­u­ca­tion is not meant for only one tribe, af­flu­ence is not cre­ated for only one sec­tion of the pop­u­la­tion. The wealth of the na­tion must be shared and dis­trib­uted equally among all our cit­i­zens. We will ap­ply ev­ery mil­i­tary might at our dis­posal to stamp out the kal­ab­ule that has in­fested the moral fiber of this coun­try, to usher in a new era of pro­bity and ac­count­abil­ity!”

Lis­ten­ing to his an­gry speech one could have sworn by the Qu­ran that Sergeant Leader, the name we in­stantly gave the new head of state, was sent by Al­lah him­self to res­cue us. To lift up Zongo Street from its poverty, to give us the op­por­tu­ni­ties other tribes en­joyed, to buy some re­spect for us and all the com­mon folks in this land. The speech lasted not more than six min­utes and, be­fore con­clud­ing, the Sergeant Leader ex­plained that some anti-revo­lu­tion sol­diers were try­ing to stage a coup to counter his “Upris­ing,” and that in or­der to sta­bi­lize the sit­u­a­tion, a six-to-six cur­few had to be im­posed na­tion­wide, “Un­til fur­ther no­tice.”

Wal­lahi, this man is a man of ac­tion, we cried. A man of the peo­ple!

“The Soviet peo­ple them­selves or­ches­trated this revo­lu­tion, and they hand­picked this new leader,” com­mented Mr. Rafiq at Gado’s bar­ber­shop, where a small crowd had gath­ered to lis­ten to the speech. The bar­ber­shop was the hang­out for book­long types like Mr. Rafik and Dr. Azeez. They spent half the day read­ing the news­pa­pers and lis­ten­ing to GBC, BBC, and Voice of Amer­ica, and then wasted the other half chal­leng­ing each other’s views and pun­dit­ting to who­ever cared to lis­ten. And in true fash­ion Dr. Azeez didn’t even al­low the air to blow over Mr. Rafik’s state­ment be­fore he coun­tered, “You got it all wrong, Mr. Man. The white peo­ple of Eng­land, and not the Rus­sians, are the ones in charge of this mutiny. The Bri­tish peo­ple are com­ing back to col­o­nize us all over again, and I here”—the doc­tor placed an open palm on his chest—“fully sup­port the move.”

Him­self Gado Bar­ber didn’t grant any opin­ion. He was a se­ri­ous man, and quite no­to­ri­ous for his mood swings. As the shop’s crowd grew, Gado— tall, lanky with a slight back hump that was more a re­sult of how he bent his ex­tra­or­di­nary long up­per body— rose from the lone bar­ber’s chair and an­nounced a hair­cut mora­to­rium. “Not un­til we know the state of af­fairs in this land,” he de­clared. “These are grim times.” He re­turned to his chair, tilted his head to­ward the shop’s rain­dam­aged ply­wood ceil­ing, and in solemn si­lence twisted his thick mus­tache.

Right then, an out- of-towner squeezed him­self into the shop’s cen­ter and pro­ceeded to ask for a trim. “Are you so stupid you don’t re­al­ize the grav­ity of this day?” yelled Gado. He chased out the baf­fled cus­tomer, wav­ing a pair of scis­sors in the air. “Idiot, I’ll cut off your ear, not your hair!” he screamed amid a ca­coph­ony of laugh­ter. He would have done it, too: Gado had been known to give a bloody ear to kids who wouldn’t sit still dur­ing a hair­cut.

Across the street at Mal­lam Sile’s teashop, the mood was lighter. The chil­dren, en­joy­ing an au­to­matic hol­i­day from the Catholic school and the madrassa, milled about the shop’s en­trance. They were ex­cited, in the way small pikins are when things, good or bad, hap­pen to peo­ple. Sile’s adult pa­trons, how­ever, had wor­ried looks on their faces as they sipped their hot bev­er­ages. The dwarfish teaseller, known to read­ily en­gage in idle chat­ter, was no­tice­ably silent, his mind ob­vi­ously on the morn­ing’s up­heaval.

In the mosque’s yard, mean­while, Mal­lam Im­ran, the self- ap­pointed spir­i­tu­al­ist, ad­dressed a small gath­er­ing of his tal­ibai and the men­di­cants that pa­trolled the com­pound. “This so- called ravalushan was re­vealed to me in the wahai I re­ceived last night, but I pre­dict it will not last,” swore the boka in his usual, soft­spo­ken man­ner. “By Al­lah’s grace I give it max­i­mum” he paused, fixed his eyes on the cloudy skies, then added, “four weeks, In­sha Al­lah!” His lis­ten­ers qui­etly shook their heads up and down in the de­vo­tional man­ner of re­li­gious sup­pli­cants.

The main road was sud­denly filled with peo­ple, who af­ter lis­ten­ing to the speech in their houses came out­side to see what a revo­lu­tion looked like. Our two res­i­dent lu­natics, Ee Hey and Mr. Brenya, were there, too, at their reg­u­lar spots by the palace assem­bly shed, car­ry­ing on with their an­tics. Ee Hey, the gi­ant, thong­wear­ing lu­natic was deeply en­gaged in his fa­vorite pas­time: he laughed deliri­ously at the sounds from the stereo speak­ers of a nearby pi­rate mu­sic store. The other mad man, Mr. Brenya— who for twenty- seven years had neatly kept and read the same news­pa­per ar­ti­cles— stood at akimbo po­si­tion mur­mur­ing vo­cab­u­lary words to him­self. Typ­i­cally Mr. Brenya hardly said a word to any­body, ex­cept when he chal­lenged passersby to a word- def­i­ni­tion con­test, the pas­sion that con­sumed his life. “I know English pass the English­man him­self,” he of­ten boasted. Ee Hey and Mr. Brenya didn’t only en­ter­tain us; they pro­tected the street at night from van­dals and petty thieves, who walked on at the sight of these men. But that Fe­bru­ary morn­ing was not a day for hu­mor. By the harsh­ness of the morn­ing’s ris­ing heat and the dis­cor­dant sound of the white man’s mu­sic

we felt that the tran­quil, naive state of our lives was about to be al­tered in a way and man­ner we couldn’t have ever imag­ined.

As we mulled over Sergeant Leader’s speech, won­der­ing what it all meant for our poor lot, a loud roar erupted from the five corners of the city. Soon, a mas­sive, ju­bi­lant crowd that num­bered into the thou­sands came march­ing to­ward our street. Taxi and trotro driv­ers bleated their horns. Women took off their veils and waved them in the air. “Power to the peo­ple!” they chanted and stamped and kicked their feet in the air, cre­at­ing a cloud of dust. “Yay, a luta! Yay, a luta con­tinua!” the marchers wailed. Half-naked chil­dren gal­loped be­hind the throng. We joined the demo peo­ple and sang their songs of protest though the real mean­ing of the words and lyrics weren’t clear to a great num­ber of us. We railed and wailed. Against dis­en­fran­chise­ment. Against Klep­toc­racy. Against Trib­al­ism. Against Cap­i­tal­ism. Against Nepo­tism. Hastily as­sem­bled, crooked plac­ards screamed: Down With Cor­rup­tion. Re­volt Of The Masses! We No Go Sit Down Make Dem Cheat Us Ev­ery­day!

We loi­tered for hours at Jus­tice Park, where the march ended. And with all the singing and danc­ing that went on it seemed to ev­ery­body that a rally was about to be­gin. We would dis­cover later on that the demo was not or­ga­nized by any per­son or group in par­tic­u­lar; it sprung from the spon­ta­neous gid­di­ness that had fol­lowed Sergeant Leader’s speech.

By late af­ter­noon the city’s food hawk­ers and drink ven­dors— al­ways on the look­out for large gath­er­ings— had planted their carts and trays all around the park’s perime­ter. Trick­sters, ma­gi­cians, aphro­disiac ped­dlers, quack gon­or­rhea doc­tors, and box- cin­ema op­er­a­tors had all got wind of the “rally,” and they, too, had set up shop with their rick­ety um­brel­las. The dust from all these ac­tiv­i­ties, cou­pled with the har­mat­tan smog, cre­ated a dense, bleary at­mos­phere. And amidst the height­ened state of cel­e­bra­tion, we lost track of the rhythm of our in­ner clocks. The in­tox­i­cat­ing beat and com­fort­ing words of the songs of strug­gle drowned out the cau­tious drum­beat of old that had for gen­er­a­tions guided our ac­tions. We only came to our senses when some­body from our street shouted in Hausa, “Cur­fir yakai!” One look at the Prem­peh Assem­bly Hall clock— it was ten to— and we bor­rowed the gazelle’s legs, dis­ap­pear­ing in no time. Oth­ers in the crowd im­me­di­ately un­der­stood their folly, too, and joined us in flight. A great stam­pede en­sued. Luck­ily for us, Zongo Street was only 500 me­ters from the park, and we made it into the safety of our com­pounds be­fore the siren. But the story was not the same for the marchers from Ash Town, A. E. B., Asafo, and Ban­tama.

At the strike of six, hun­dreds of gun-car­ry­ing sol­diers— it ap­peared that they had all the while lain in wait in nearby al­leys— de­scended on the marchers. Peo­ple ran hel­ter- skel­ter into com­pounds in which they knew no­body. We shel­tered those that man­aged to es­cape, and gave them mats to sleep in our court­yards. The un­for­tu­nate ones who couldn’t es­cape would for the rest of their lives rue that day. Through the cracks in our win­dows, we saw them be­ing beaten to the ground, mer­ci­lessly, as if they were prey. With crude ba­tons. With gun bar­rels. With me­tal-toed boots. Some were even shot dead. The dusk air was filled with the wail­ings of trapped vic­tims, the screams of sol­diers, the crack­ing sound of bul­lets, the thud of ob­jects to body and body to ground.

Deep into the night gun­shots and mor­tar shells rang and boomed from dis­tances across the city. By day­light, more than fifty peo­ple were dead, at least that was the fig­ure told us by Mansa BBC, the em­i­nent ru­mor mon­ger of Zongo Street. Sources from other neigh­bor­hoods pegged the to­tal dead at thirty. But since none of the news­pa­pers made men­tion of the march or the at­tack we had no way of know­ing the ac­tual num­ber of peo­ple killed on the first night of the revo­lu­tion.

We quickly be­came ac­cus­tomed to the new way of life un­der the cur­few. We and our sheep, goats, chick­ens, and ducks locked our­selves in our com­pounds well be­fore the dreaded siren. Young chil­dren cor­nered their grand­par­ents to spin one Gizo tale af­ter another un­til sleep- time. Mean­while Sergeant Leader and his peo­ple cre­ated new laws ev­ery day. We gath­ered around our ra­dios ev­ery morn­ing, to lis­ten to new rules, which al­ways ended with the warn­ing that, “All cit­i­zens must com­ply with the new di­rec­tives. Or face the con­se­quences.”

Then came the in­tro­duc­tion of the Peo­ple’s Vig­i­lance Com­mit­tees. The PVCs, we were told, were cre­ated to fa­cil­i­tate a neigh­bor­hood- by- neigh­bor­hood dis­cus­sion about a new thing they called “Grass­roots Democ­racy,” a term not even Mr. Rafik and Dr. Azeez could ex­plain prop­erly. Mr. Rafik posited that the “Grass­roots” had some­thing to do with Sergeant Leader’s ef­fort to make Ghana pro­duce its own food and stop im­port­ing from over­seas. Dr. Azeez’s ex­pla­na­tion for the term was much fuzzier, but we were con­fi­dent that his was closer to the truth. “It means ev­ery man is go­ing to be a farmer, and is al­lowed only one hoe and only one wife and only one vote,” he chimed. When asked to de­fine the new phe­nom­e­non English mav­er­ick Mr. Brenya sim­ply said, “Dem all crazy,” fi­nally be­tray­ing the au­thor­i­ta­tive com­mand he was known for on mat­ters of the Queen’s lan­guage. But no sooner had the PVCs been formed than it be­came clear that the main mis­sion of its mem­bers was to spy on and root out the Against Peo­ple, the En­e­mies of the Revo­lu­tion.

“Snakes in the grass, that’s what they are, those PBC ravalushan boys,” said Mansa BBC.

The in­au­gu­ra­tion of the Zongo Street PVC ush­ered in an era of so­cial up­heaval in our small com­mu­nity. Re­spect for the el­ders, a sa­cred prac­tice in our Hausa Is­lamic cul­ture, quickly dis­ap­peared among some youth, who felt it was time the old folks re­al­ize the chang­ing za­man. If the song changes, the dance, too, must change, they as­serted.

Sol­diers in ar­mored ve­hi­cles, car­ry­ing heavy firearms, went from house to house in the city proper, and from store to store at Cen­tral Mar­ket, search­ing for kal­ab­ule goods and the peo­ple who hoarded them. “Op­er­a­tion Clean House,” it was called. Shop own­ers locked their doors. Trad­ing came to a halt across the city, caus­ing a scarcity of pro­vi­sions and food­stuff we had never seen be­fore. A spell of hunger and suf­fer­ing threat­ened to erode what­ever lit­tle dig­nity we had left. And so con­sumed were we with our strug­gles that the dis­ap­pear­ance of Ee Hey and Mr. Brenya didn’t come to our no­tice un­til a week af­ter it had hap­pened. It never oc­curred to us that mad folks, too, were bound by the laws

Some say the owl is an an­i­mal of dark­ness. Oth­ers say it is an an­i­mal of vi­sion. On the day fol­low­ing Baba Illa’s ab­duc­tion, a white owl ap­peared on Zongo Street.

of the revo­lu­tion. We never saw Ee Hey again. Mr. Brenya even­tu­ally re­turned to us, but never was he the af­fa­ble word­smith we had known. His face bore a sad ex­pres­sion, un­smil­ing, fore­bod­ing.

On the day we dis­cov­ered that our beloved lu­natics had been ab­ducted the re­main­ing bit of jol­lity in our lives evap­o­rated into the dense fog of the revo­lu­tion. Even Hamda One, the la­trine man and the so- called Laugh­ing Hyena of Zongo Street—who, de­spite his hor­ren­dous vo­ca­tion and low so­cial class, was the most cheer­ful per­son in the neigh­bor­hood—lost his sense of hu­mor. He avoided eye con­tact with peo­ple and sped on, the la­trine bucket pre­car­i­ously bal­anced on his head. For weeks, not a sin­gle laugh was heard on Zongo Street, not even from the chil­dren, who are usu­ally im­mune to such ab­surd re­al­i­ties.

2 For a stretch of time Zongo Street was spared from the car­nage of the revo­lu­tion. Not a sin­gle house was bombed— in­stant jus­tice was meted out to the land­lords in whose houses kal­ab­ule goods were found. And no­body, other than the two mad­men, had been ab­ducted by sol­diers from Gon­dar Bar­racks. Baba Ila— the only truly rich per­son on Zongo Street— was a God- fear­ing mer­chant who im­ported stock­fish and other dried goods from Nige­ria and the Ivory Coast. As­sured in our minds that he was not in harm’s way, we dis­creetly sup­ported the as­sault on the city’s wealthy folk, on whose head Sergeant Leader placed the blame for the poverty of folks like us and for all of the coun­try’s eco­nomic and so­cial prob­lems. We watched in tacit si­lence as sol­diers lined up busi­ness­men, mar­ket women and or­di­nary cit­i­zens, stripped them naked and flogged their backs and but­tocks in the mar­ket square.

Then at ex­actly six- thirty a. m. on the 4th of May, five lor­ries packed with abongo men de­scended upon our street like sea­sonal lo­custs. There must have been a hun­dred of them, armed heav­ily with ma­chine guns, ri­fles, and grenades that hung loosely from their waist­bands. A num­ber of the sol­diers stood at in­ter­vals along the street’s perime­ter, while the rest trot­ted into Baba Ila’s com­pound, a mod­ern three- story con­crete build­ing with a pen­t­house on the top floor.

We aban­doned our morn­ing chores and gath­ered in al­leys and rooftops to catch a glimpse of the op­er­a­tion. Baba Ila— dark-skinned, mus­cu­lar and mid­dleaged— was es­corted out of his com­pound. He was clad in white cot­ton un­der­wear, his wide, hairy chest naked. He looked weary and dis­ori­ented. Chin low­ered, lips mov­ing— as if in prayer.

The abongo men carted box-loads of im­ported stock­fish, sar­dines, corned beef, and other dried goods from the house and stacked them in a pile out on the street. They broke into the store­fronts of the build­ing and emp­tied them of all their mer­chan­dise. There was a pro­vi­sion store, a textile re­tail out­let, and a rice whole­saler; and even though none of these busi­nesses were Baba Ila’s, he was still charged with “hoard­ing and smug­gling.”

The sol­diers formed a ring around the mer­chant. One slapped him across the face, another kicked his groin, and a third, com­ing from be­hind, struck him on the head with a gun bar­rel. A gash on Baba Ila’s head spewed blood, a dark bulb ap­peared around his left eye, shut­ting it com­pletely. He was on all fours at this point, but that didn’t stop his as­sailants from hit­ting him. “Get up, if you no wan’ die!” a soldier shouted. Baba Ila made an at­tempt to stand, but swiftly fell on his back. His head hit the ground with a thud. “Kal­ab­ule man, we go kill you to­day!” they shouted with each kick of their boots.

Women clutched their bo­soms and slapped their am­ple thighs and cried hys­ter­i­cally. The men just froze in fright­ful si­lence. We longed to ap­proach the sol­diers and vouch for Baba Ila’s in­tegrity. To say to them, Look, this Baba has never en­gaged in kal­ab­ule, and many of the poor folks on this street de­pend on him for their evening meals. But who were we to ap­proach a red- eyed soldier dur­ing those hot days of the revo­lu­tion?

Sud­denly, what we had dreaded all along hap­pened. A soldier smashed a Star beer bot­tle from which he had just fin­ished drink­ing. Us­ing a large piece of the bro­ken glass, he be­gan to scrape off Baba Ila’s hair. They called it ba­ban soja, the “de­signer” hair­cut the mil­i­tary gave to peo­ple in their cus­tody. Blood was ev­ery­where on the mer­chant’s body. Next, the sol­diers opened tins of sar­dine and corned beef and tore open boxes of raw stock fish. “Eat ev­ery­thing now, now,” they barked. Baba Ila pushed the food into his mouth and ate un­til he be­gan to choke. He coughed a gut­tural cough and vom­ited all over him­self. That ap­peared to anger the sol­diers, who started a fresh as­sault on him. They grabbed his life­less-look­ing body and tossed it into one of the lor­ries as if he were a sack of rice. They formed a hu­man chain, and within fif­teen min­utes they had filled their trucks with all the seized mer­chan­dise. Then, with a com­bi­na­tion of dex­ter­ity and show­man­ship, the abongo men leapt onto the mov­ing lor­ries, fired shots into the air, and sped off, leav­ing be­hind a cloud of red dust and a trail of sor­row and tears on Zongo Street.

3 Some say the owl is an an­i­mal of dark­ness. Oth­ers say it is an an­i­mal of vi­sion. On the day fol­low­ing Baba Ila’s ab­duc­tion, a white owl ap­peared on Zongo Street. The bird sat com­fort­ably for more than five min­utes on a limb of the goji tree near the mosque, and not even once did it blink or turn its head in the usual, shy man­ner of owls. In­stead, the bird stared right back at those who ac­ci­den­tally caught its eyes. Mal­lam Im­ran swore, this time by the grave of the Prophet him­self, that the owl had re­vealed the des­tiny of the whole na­tion to him. “This time he is leav­ing us for sure,” the boka said. “By Al­lah, we will not wake up with him next week.”

“Keep talk­ing non­sense,” sneered BBC. “Far as I know, Sargey Leader is Al­lah’s kwamman­der. And he here to stay.”

As if what hap­pened to Baba Ila wasn’t enough to test our faith and scar our col­lec­tive psy­che, we woke up to more com­mo­tion one morn­ing. We saw Hamda One, the la­trine man, pac­ing up and down the street, with the usual bucket of fe­ces on his head. He burst out into laugh­ter any­time he made eye con­tact with folks, break­ing the unof­fi­cial taboo that had, for weeks, kept us from smil­ing. Mansa BBC re­marked, “The car­rion stew he been eat­ing all these years at Mal­lam Bawa’s pito bar done fi­nally moved into his brain.”

Clearly there was some­thing alarm­ing, per­haps even sin­is­ter, in the way Hamda One car­ried him­self that morn­ing. The more we lis­tened to the sound of his laugh­ter the more we be­came con­vinced that it didn’t come from his body alone. Those nearby looked re­proach­fully at the la­trine man, as if with his mirth he had com­mit­ted a grave sin. These re­proaches, how­ever, did noth­ing to de­ter Hamda One. His laugh­ter, a se­ries of loud, high-pitched “hee-hee-hee” sounds, re­sem­bled the spot­ted hyena’s, whose laugh­ter car­ries dire mean­ing to its lis­ten­ers. The la­trine man seemed de­fi­ant— con­fronta­tional, even— as if pro­vok­ing us to look at him. To smell our own ex­cre­ment. He swayed his up­per

body, caus­ing the fe­ces to spill onto the ground. “Use­less man, carry your shit, go some­where else,” sev­eral voices yelled at once. But he be­came even more an­i­mated and started a song in his Frafra lan­guage, a tongue none of us Hausa folks un­der­stood. His words and syl­la­bles, a litany of poly­phonic phrases, sounded omi­nous. That morn­ing, not a sin­gle heart on Zongo Street was un­moved. Even the book­long folks at Gado’s bar­ber­shop, whose scorn for the la­trine man was un­sur­passed, showed some com­pas­sion to­ward him.

Even­tu­ally the spilled ex­cre­ment found its way into Hamda One’s mouth. The hys­ter­i­cal laugh­ter gave way to a se­ries of vi­o­lent, ric­o­chet­ing coughs. By now, al­most all of the bucket’s con­tent was on the ground. With palm- cov­ered mouths and noses we stared. Hamda One laughed and coughed un­til his body couldn’t take it any longer. He col­lapsed in a heap and died in­stantly. His smeared face, mouth agape in mid­laugh­ter, was the last we saw of the la­trine man.

It was as if the spir­its that had for sev­eral weeks sti­fled our laugh­ter had sud­denly de­cided to re­lieve us of our suf­fer­ing; we could not make eye con­tact with­out burst­ing into teary laugh­ter. Mal­lam Im­ran is­sued a fatwa for ev­ery adult to ob­serve a three- day fast, “to ward off the evil forces that are bent on de­stroy­ing this com­mu­nity.” No­body paid at­ten­tion to the boka, not even the men­di­cants, who were, by this time, more pre­oc­cu­pied with find­ing some­thing to eat than fol­low­ing an edict that could starve them to death.

With the owl’s visit still on our minds, with the fear of hunger and the bru­tal­ity of the sol­diers over­whelm­ing us, with the fate of Baba Ila still un­known, with the smoke from re­cently bombed houses chok­ing our lungs, with the grotesque end of Hamda One un­ex­plained, with the stench of fe­ces still fresh in our noses, with the chants of “A luta con­tinua!” and “Let the blood flow!” rul­ing the air in the town proper, we re­treated to our com­pounds and re­verted to our go-to mantra in times of cri­sis: In­sha Al­lah!

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