Words and Power

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What exactly is the most powerful tool people possess?

In Baho!, written by Roland Rugero, the power of communication is drawn to light in a cruel and vivid way. The protagonist, Nyamuragi, is an interest character in the sense that his ability to speak is compromised by both his own doing, and the cruelties of his environment. While initially able to speak throughout his childihood, he ultimately chose not to, seeing no real reason for it as his parents understood him well enough that it was ultimately unnecessary, “The verdict returned: The boy is in good health, he simply doesn’t want to speak! There was nothing more to say”(12).

However this self imposed silence is later made to be permanent, as an attempt at healing his muteness, ultimately removes any chance of his voice working ever again. This inability to speak returns to his detriment, as something as simple as asking where the nearest place to relieve himself is the catalyst to his own unfortunate fate. His urgent approach, and the silence that accompanies him constantly, is intimidating to the young girl Kigeme, whom he seemingly assaults in his desperation.

Unable to properly articulate himself through words, he resorts to desperate attempts at wild gesticulation which unfortunately only furthers the misunderstanding, and cementing in Kigeme’s mind that Nyamuragi intends to rape her. His lack of communicative ability is damning even further when he gets captured by the villagers, when he attempts to say, “ego”, or ‘yes’, to hopefully plead innocence, but in the context of the situation it could also be interpreted as “ejo”, or yesterday or even tomorrow. This confuses the developing misunderstanding further as the villagers are unable to determine whether he was admitting to another crime committed not too long ago, or begging for mercy on the coming holiday.

Baho!, as a novel shows the consequences of words, and the power they have. Even the absence of words is inherently significant and Nyamuragi is the unfortunate vessel through which we learn the significance of communication.

 

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