FREEDOM FROM THE SHACKLES OF SLAVERY
The Amiiru people belong to the Bantu ethnic group. Tradition narrates that the ancestors in their primeval phase of history, were subjected to captivity by a people they called Nguo-ntune (red skinned). Mbwa is the mythical country, the land of oppression and enslavement.
Historians have never identified the exact location of Mbwa. The location though is of little value and concern. The peaceful exodus and the subsequent regaining of freedom takes precedence over knowing the land of servitude.
The oppressed made appeals to the captors to give them leave in search of green pastures of freedom. The appeals however, fell on deaf ears. After many years of persistent appeals, they were finally rewarded with a positive answer. The enemies came to yield only on conditions of fulfilling some tasks as a test. The enemies knew a priori that the captives would not be able to perform any of the tasks. Hence, the obvious failure in the test would ultimately mean eternal servitude.
The first task demanded of the captives was a shoe made of leather from a skin with hair on both sides. Where on earth could there be an animal whose skin had hair on both sides! If that would be, then the animal would be one of the wonders of the world.
Our ancestors are known to be men of great wisdom since the time immemorial. The sages sit together in a semi-circle each one on a three- legged stool, “ruriga.” They snuff and sip beer brewed from bee honey as they sit in consultation whenever there is a problem or an issue that needs a solution.
In that primeval phase history, Koome-Njwe was the leader of the people. He was the Mugwe, the high priest and the prophet who was endowed with the psychic power of divination.
In order to make the shoe with a skin with hair on both sides, Koome-Njwe gave these instructions, “Kill a bull, cut its dewlap, “mukooro”, cure it, sew it together and then take it to them.” All was perfectly done and when the shoe was presented to the captors, they were satisfied with the shoe.
The captors were decisively determined to exhaust the captives by constraining them to perform more feats they thought impossible.
The second task demanded by the captors was a calf that evacuated diatomite. “Njau ikuriika ira” Acalf evacuating white dung could hardly be an imaginable reality. However, the unimaginable was imaginable in the mind of Koome-Njwe. To the surprise of all, he came up with a bright idea. He said to the people, “Feed the calf only with milk.” The instructions were followed meticulously as per the letter. The feeding brought positively the desired result. The calf started evacuating white dung. No sooner was it taken to the captors than they were content.
In the next test, the captors dropped a fruit into very deep pit. They demanded of our ancestors to take out the fruit from the pit without descending into the pit or piercing the fruit. No one after all, had the daring thought of getting down into the abyss. Only Koome –Njwe had the genius solution to the problem that was apparently impossible. He said to the people, “Fill the pit with water until it is full.” The people dug a trench from a river and drained the water into the abyss. Unbelievable! The fruit floated on the top of the abyss. The captors were astonished by the wisdom of the captives.
At this juncture, the captors came to the realization that they were not more intelligent than their captives. Self-complacency made them think that being captors made them the brightest mortals. After cracking brains, it dawned to them that the sages of the captives gave solutions to all problems posed. Hence, they inferred that as long as the genius old men live, the captives would accomplish all the tasks assigned to them. In order to suppress the captives’ power behind problem-solving- skills, the demand of the captors was explicit and emphatic. They asked for the blood of all the old men. The directive given was to slaughter the aged old men in a trench, then leave the blood to flow through the trench, like a river to reach them and see it in their residence. The captors were inhuman, bloodthirst with no respect for the sanctity of life.
Koome –Njwe had the moral obligation to safeguard the sanctity of life. He gave these instructions, “Take all the old men and conceal them in a place where the captors would not be able to see them. Once that was accomplished, he then gave these directives, “collect all the old animals, cattle, sheep and goats and bring then to the trench. Slaughter them, and allow the blood to flow though the trench to reach the enemies.” The warriors killed all the animals, the blood flowed like a river and reached the desired terminus. The captors saw the blood with their own eyes. Seeing is believing, hence they were undoubtedly convinced that the old men of the captives were dead.
The last test demanded by the captors before the captives could realize their freedom ws no easy task. They told our ancestors to forge a spear which when fixed on the ground could reach the heavens. “Itumo riikumunta iguru”. This demand was a feat that deafeated the wisdom, insight, divination and imagination of Koome-Njwe. However, as a genius, he had the inspiration to force the way to freedom. In consultation with other sages, he devised a scheme to conceal the escape to liberty.
Preparations were made for the journey to take off. Koome- Njwe directed that the old and the young who move at a snail’s pace be the first to start the journey. These were the old people, children, old cattle, goats and sheep, calves, kids and lambs.
The warriors were left behind with assigned duties. They collected cow-dung, heaped it in the huts then set them ablaze. The enemies saw the huge flames souring in the dark sky. They sent secret agents to make inquiries as to what was happening. The tactful Koome- Njwe deceived them as he said, “we are making the spear that you demanded of us and it will be presented to you by mid-day tomorrow.” The captors waited with anticipated anxiety for the presentation of the spear. In all surprise and dismay, they never received the spear. When it was past midday, they went to check why the spear had not been presented to them in time. On arrival, they were struck with wonder. They found an abandoned and desolate place with heaps of ashes. In Frenzy and fury, they made persuit of the captives but it was all in vain. The captives had travelled too far the for the captors to catch up with them.
Tired, fatigued and worn out, the people arrived at a place of massive waters. The legend names this massive waters as “Iria -itune” (The Red sea). Other legendary names for this place are “Mbwene” and “Kiigairo”. “Kiigairo.” is believed to be the place of separation of the Eastern Bantu in their ethnic groups.
The massive waters became a stumbling block that stranded the fleeing ancestors. It was impossible to move across. Koome –Njwe, “the enlightened one”, was the only saviour to redeem the situation. He said to the people, “we need to slaughter a young man and divinize by examining his bowels. Bowels symbolize a passage from captivity to freedom.
“The enlightened” Koome –Njwe asked for three volunteers one to be slaughtered, the other to be the slaughtering base and the other to standby to be the slaughtered in case the bowels of the first one failed to reveal anything.
The triad young men who volunteered themselves were: Gaita (the self-giving sacrificial lamb), and the first to be slaughtered. The second who had to serve as the slaughtering base was Muthetu (soil). The third to standby was Kiuna (the girded loins).
Gaita was slaughtered and Koome-Njwe divinized with the bowels. He assured the people that Gaita was “the anointed ore” to save the situation; Gaita was sewn together and resurrected to show people the way to liberty.
The staff (ruturo) of Gaita which had been broken joined together miraculously. “The anointed Gaita struck the massive waters with his staff. The waters split apart leaving a dry land between the two standing ridges of water.
The narrow path across ‘Iria Itune” was the passage from captivity to freedom. The first chosen persons to cross and thus lead others in crossing were a lass (gakenye) and a lad (kaiji). They were followed by a newly initiated girl (ngutu) and a newly initiate boy (ntane). The gender pair of infants and the initiates symbolized innocence and the sanctity of marriage. The rest of the people crossed in theree groups. The first group crossed at night, the second at dawn and the third at daybreak. These groups were named “Njiru” (the black group), “Ntune” (the red group) and “ Njeru” ( the white group) respectively. The crossing of all the people concluded with a miraculous epilogue. Gaita, “the anointed one “struck the two ridges of water with his sacred staff. The massive waters joined together again.
Freedom, became a reality notwithstanding all the difficulties encountered in the land of slavery.