There are 6909 total languages currently in the world. If you went to a country where they spoke a language you do not understand, would you feel segregated? Roland Rugero explores this language barrier in his novel, Baho!, through his mute main character Nyamuragi.
With tensions high in Burundi due to the war, people are on their toes and more protective of those in their particular societies. Nyamuragi gets blamed for raping a fourteen year old girl, however that is not necessarily the case. Because he is mute, he cannot defend himself or have people see the situation from his point of view.
This language barrier between him and his people made him feel alone and helpless. He tries to defend himself but, “The pain of misunderstanding… He fails. He wants to explain himself. But in a squirming that reads like a new attempt to fee, there seems to be only one response” (21). Miscommunication lead to violence, because most saw him as a threat.
Understanding language is more important than most believe. It is how humans communicate their knowledge and stories. If one is not able to vocally speak, human nature should try to understand them in other ways, rather than just to resort to violence.
Nyamuragi, “Foaming at the mouth, the mute has accepted his lot. He has ceased to offer upany resistance: Yes, he is everything, even evil incarnate” (31). His human spirit and being had no other option than to accept his fate, due to the fact that the people were not willing to understand his side of the story. It was easier for them to execute Nyamuragi than take the time to hear both sides.
The author makes it clear to the audience the importance language has on culture and everyday communication. Times of war make it hard for people to see the goodness in human nature, making it easy to kill one who threatens their livelihood. There is a consequence of language, due to the possible miscommunications and confused meaning that can occur.
Will language be Nyamuragi’s innocent downfall? Read Roland Rugero’s, Baho!, to find out.