Click to buy Print Edition Home Page African Writing Online Home Page  
HomeAbout UsNewsinterviewsMemoirsFictionPoetryTributesArtReviews

  Akin Adesokan
  Amatoritsero Ede
  Angela Nwosu
  A. Quarcoopome
  Aryan Kaganof
  Chi Onyemelukwe
  Chuma Nwokolo
  David Chislett
  Domi Chirongo
  Eyitemi Egwuenu
  Firoze Manji
  Gabriel Okara
  Grace Kim
  Isabella Morris
  JKS Makokha
  Kangsen Wakai
  Khumbu. Mpofu
  Khaled Khamissi
  Linda Saunders

  M. Mashigoane
  James Currey
  Noelle Bolou
  Nourdin Bejjit
  Okey Nwamadi
  Patricia J. Wesley
  Paula Akugizibwe
  Phephelaphi Dube
  Rassool Snyman
  Sonja Porle
  Sumaila Umaisha
  Uche Nduka
  Uduak Isong O.

   Ntone Edjabe
   Rudolf Okonkwo
   Tolu Ogunlesi
   Yomi Ola
   Molara Wood

African Writing Archives

Current A.W.



Kangsen Feka Wakai


Kangsen Feka Wakai

Wakai was born in Bamenda in 1978, six years before Cameroon's first coup attempt and fourteen years before its first multi-party elections. He holds a BA in Journalism. He lives in the Boston area.



 Rumours of War

Revisiting A Journal Entry

He had caught grenades with his bare hands and turned them into inconsequential specks of dust. He carried with him a staff that had deflected a torrent of bullets. He had converted would-be assassins to his flock on the spot, singling them out from a crowd of thousands. They all swore they had seen this with their eyes.

He could appear and disappear. Just like that; one minute he was there and the next he was gone. They said he had been ‘cooked’ with the most potent juju; he had spent six days and six nights in the forbidden forests of Oku. Justice was on his side they insisted, but most of all, the medicine people, from the Aghem thunder-makers to the Batibo spirit-catchers, were on his side. He was untouchable. The uniformed goons couldn’t touch him. He was divine. He was truth. They couldn’t lay their accursed hands on him for he was the honey-tongue genie of elusive dreams with the power to conjure the apocalypse.

So, he was a messiah, our own latter-day saint.

In our sleepwalking dreams, we heard bullets singing hosannas to the moon. We saw rebels in brand new boots hiding in the shadows across the border, bidding their time, just waiting, to unleash fleeting justice — vengeance on our omnipresent malefactor.

They never came.

Words were hurled like grenades toward the fort protecting the source of our collective misery, the oracle of our destiny. Power to the people! We shall overcome! Suffer Don Finish! But, the suffering had just begun, so after the political circus of those years we found ourselves making frequent trips to the latrine to rid ourselves of nauseating slogans.


Enow was with me when I heard that my father had been put under house arrest. It was a Friday evening. He was with me at the house of the Vice Principal, Mrs. Daniel, later that day when she granted me permission to go home the next morning. That night, he volunteered to accompany me to town and then spend a day with his family. We set out before dawn, knowing that there was a chance we might have to walk all the way. It would have been a two-and-a-half-hour walk.

We tore through the morning fog, marching on the thorny grass of a nearby abandoned airstrip. It was still dark when we emerged in front of the erstwhile popular Safari Hotel, its cobble-stone walls, the only relic of civilization in this part of the savannah. As we hit the road, we ran into the bread delivery car, which was returning from making a delivery in our school. The battered accumulation of moving metal, a Toyota DX in a past life, was driving along with no lights. The driver, a loquacious character with dodgy eyes and a torn shirt on his bony frame, spent most of the trip posing questions and reminding us, at least a dozen times, how lucky we were to have come across him. He said the city was dead. He boasted that very few people had the heart to make this trip. ‘E no easy but a no di fear die,’ he said, ‘man must chop o!’

By the way, why were we going to the city? Save for a funeral or serious sickness in the family, we had no business going to the city. How were we going to get back? Had we heard some people had been arrested? Others had been killed! Did we know that the town was under siege? There were even rumours of war. Rebels trained in Nigeria! Rumours of war, he whispered….

Eventually, we arrived in Bamenda without incident, after taking back roads that neither Enow nor myself, who traveled the road frequently, knew existed. We paid him, thanked him and bade him farewell.

It was Saturday morning. The road from Bali Park through Azire, going past Metta quarters all the way to the city center was deserted - except for a few passers by and the occasional military truck. The trucks looked like giant insects, patrolling the streets, filled to the brim with combat ready troops petting their guns, eyes reddened as if anticipating a fight. - A fight with a non-existent enemy.

Commercial Avenue was dead…The cluster of buzzing okrika sheds that animated the cracked asphalt and crammed sidewalks on regular days was empty, the skeleton of the sheds covered and sheathed from the November dust. A gut-wrenching silence resonated in the emptiness. They were no fruit sellers, no honking taxis, no akara sellers, no blaring speakers, no market women, and no newspaper boys. It was as if there was no news to report, as though life had come to a sudden halt. The banks, clothing shops, handicraft center, restaurants and bars were all closed. The market was closed. It was as if the weather had conspired with the troops: the clouds on that Saturday morning were gray. Bamenda was gray. A quiet hum seemed to resonate from the depths of its being, a dirge of sorts; a blues song to commemorate a city’s coma.

We walked right into this coma.

We took the back roads from City Chemist Roundabout through Ntamulung all the way to Nkwen. Occasionally, we would come across people carrying bundles and bags headed for their respective ancestral villages. It was one of them who alerted us of the different checkpoints around the city. There was one on Finance junction and another on Mile 2 Nkwen, but there were others in Ntarinkon, Azire Old Church Junction amongst other locations. Yet, the most notorious was the one on Mile 2 Nkwen, which had already earned itself a reputation for its heavy-handedness, and most certainly its cruelty. It was the one to avoid, they warned. The troops stationed in Nkwen were the most vicious, from the Koutaba barracks.

Enow and I passed through Ntamulung onto Ghana Street in Nkwen before going our separate ways. I had a hill to climb and he had a few slums to navigate, if he wanted to avoid the Mile 2 checkpoint, which was on the main road to Foncha Street, his destination. I ascended the Sisia hill to avoid the checkpoint at Finance Junction. From a distance I could see the blue-greenish clump of troops regulating movement in the main artery of the city, the station hill. I took a trail through Sisia all the way to my neighborhood, climbing the hill, avoiding the main road. When I emerged on the streets of Up Station, one of the first persons I saw was my Auntie T in the distance, carrying a food flask and coming from the direction of the Brigade Mixte Mobile. Without even uttering a word, what had seemed like mystifying puzzles the previous day began to unravel. The answers revealed themselves. He was imprisoned after all, not just under house arrest.

Our house was not immune to the grayness of the weather that morning. The whiff of power, unrestrained in its posture and rude in its manners, still permeated the hallways of our home. It was in my room. It was in my brother’s voice; in my cousins’ eyes. It had lurched into the sanctity of my parents’ bedroom. Power, prying and guiltless, had forced itself into the intimacy of our home, desecrating its sacredness and homeliness. Three weeks after the invasion, my mother’s bruises had not healed. She had been kicked repeatedly in the shin the morning of the invasion when she tried to block soldiers from forcing themselves into their room. She still projected strength, but the ghosts of that morning now hovered around her like invisible sentinels, a shadow on her beam. The fingerprints of power were on every wall. The telephone lines, which were cut during the invasion, crisscrossed the yard, a serpentine monument to their callousness. It was a reminder of our powerlessness in the face of such power.

In the parlour, inside the glass cabinet that ran across the wall was a picture of my father wearing a full gray beard and a brown Kaunda suit, an easy smile on his face. The photo was courtesy of a representative of the National Human Rights Commission, an official smokescreen, as a gesture of goodwill and as proof that nothing had happened to him. At the time the picture was taken no visitations were allowed for family members, my mother included. So, there he was, gray and frail but smiling assuredly. Smiling, perhaps, at the comedy beneath the on-going tragedy.

Right before dark, my older brother, his friend and I arrived at Bali Park, where I would get transportation to school. There were at least three cars waiting in line, willing to defy the curfew and take their chances with the dozen or so lingering passengers hoping to catch a ride to the village. Some of the passengers readily confessed that they were escaping the coming war. Like me, a lot of the passengers were leaving behind the wreckage of misplaced rage, the duplicity of pseudo-messiahs, the helplessness of arrested citizens, an empty market and a desolate city. Unlike them, I was forever altered, but returning to school and my own version of normalcy.

Copyright © African Writing Ltd & respective copyright owners. Enquiries to