Story By Lewis Dampson
With anguish and terror in the atmosphere, people running helter-skelter, mothers crying about the death of their children, wives crying about their dead or captured husbands, children facing the fear of being forced into battle, women in terror of being raped, sounds of gunfire and grenades was Zaza wailing in the maternity ward of a dilapidated hospital.
She had struggled for the past one hour to put to birth. Her eyes were sunk deep within her eye sockets and her lungs failing to perform their functions. The fear of rebels trooping into the hospital was another worry for Zaza. Most of the experienced midwives in the town had fled because of the civil war that had engulfed the country, leaving health assistance to attend to Zaza.
William, the husband of Zaza was also on the lookout outside the hospital for approaching rebels. He needed both his wife and child alive and had to do everything possible to make that a reality. He wielded an Ak-47 assault rifle to engage any rebel group that tried to approach the hospital. “I will protect my family at all cost, even if that means putting my life on the line,” he said while hiding in a secured location just opposite the hospital.
Meanwhile, Zaza was still struggling to push. Finally, she was able to push harder, and the baby came out. “Congratulations madam, you have a bouncing baby boy,” said a health assistant.
“Look!! I can see another crowning. It seems she was heavy with twins. Come!! We are not done with our work,” said another health assistant.
Zaza pushed harder, and another baby boy came out. “Congratulations madam, you have a set of twins,” said one of the health assistance. Zaza’s face gleamed with excitement and a feeling of accomplishment. She was so happy she forgot about the war taking place some few meters from the hospital.
“They look so much alike. I can’t even distinguish between them,” another health assistant said while she held the two babies.
“Bring them, please,” Zaza demanded. The health assistant gave the babies to their mother. Zaza was so happy. They both looked like their father. The two babies were so identical that the health assistants couldn’t point out who came first.
While Zaza was admiring her babies, William barged into the maternity room sweating profusely. He had seen some rebels approaching the hospital in armored vehicles. There was no way he stood a chance against them.
“We have to leave now Zaza, It is not safe here anymore. The rebels will be in this hospital soon and I can’t protect you from them,” he said while he grabbed the babies and helped his wife to get up from the bed. Zaza was weary, but the news of the approaching rebels brought new strength to her faculties.
The health assistants fled the hospital on hearing the news. The rebels had chosen the hospital to be their safe haven, and were approaching with all their ammunitions and soldiers. They have heard of the army coming into the town and had to look for a fortified place to attack from.
William led his wife out of the hospital without the rebels spotting them. He was holding the babies as well with his gun hanging on his shoulder.
The streets were littered with dead bodies and burning cars and buildings. William was moving with opened eyes. He didn’t want his family to be a victim of the senseless war. Especially, his new-born babies. He walked cautiously along the streets. He moved into nooks and crannies to avoid being spotted by the heartless rebels.
The war started as an internal conflict. Colonel Dan had taken power through a coup d’état and established a military regime. He initially enjoyed early support from numerous indigenous tribes who had been excluded from power. Any hope that Dan would improve the way the country was run was put aside as he quickly clamped down on opposition, fueled by his paranoia of a counter-coup attempt against him. To succeed power for the second time, President Dan rigged the elections.
Besides the rigging, President Dan maltreated other tribes and favorited his own group. This caused a lot of unrest in the country with the development of many rebel groups trying to take power from President Dan.
The rebel group had pushed back the country’s army into the capital and were advancing with brutal force eliminating every obstacle in their way. This was the cross-fire William and his wife, Zaza found themselves in.
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There were many people who were leaving the capital town to other safer towns and countries. They moved in batches in canoes since it was safer to travel on water than by road. The booking of a seat in the canoe was rendezvoused. William had managed to locate the place and booked two seats prior to his wife entering into labor.
William carefully led his family into the bush close to the river they would ply out of the country. He secured a place for his wife to rest to attend to the few hours old babies. He stood on guard with his rifle to ensure his family’s safety. He had not rested for seventy-two hours. His body was exploding with weariness and his eyes burning with frustration, but he had to be on the lookout for the safety of his family.
Soon, the time for the canoe to leave was approaching. William helped Zaza get on her feet and led the way to board the canoe. People moved in their batches cautiously as they didn’t want neither the rebels nor the government army to spot them.
The owner of the canoe took his machete and cleared some bushes to reveal the hidden canoe. With the help of the people, the canoe was dragged onto the river. They sat in the canoe carefully and quietly one after the other.
Soon, the canoe was plying the water as the owner paddled. With no lights, the owner maneuvered his way through the darkness and avoided being spotted. In thirty minutes, they were in the middle of the river. The ride was smooth although the atmosphere was filled with tension.
To be continued….