Baho! and it’s Story

Baho! by Roland Rugero is a novel that I have come to love by the end of this semester. I didn’t think to much about it at first but now, near the end, I find myself loving the story it had to tell and the sort-of  hidden aspects you could take from it.

One such moment is the result of the war in Kanya costing the lives of Nyamuragi’s parents.According to Nyamuragi, ” From this state of affairs, he had deduced one thing: Man is all powerful. He is to be feared. And fear, at its root, is but an unspoken questioning.” (Baho! 20) which I found to be a profoundly powerful outtake from the novel. It focuses on the horrendousness of the war that happened and focussing that fear on people because people can be infinitely cruel. And in that cruelness, people can much more terrifying because of the unknown depth to their own cruelty.

Another moment is when the one-eyed lady reflects on the mystery of ejo. According to her musings, “Man and time are linked by the present, they have concluded! A day gone by, a day to come: a single name, ejo. Certainly, the future had its designation: kazoza, literally “what happened will come.” The past as well, akahise, “what has happened.” But the blunder had been committed. The consequences of which will follow.” (Baho! 29) which I find to be a somewhat profound musing. It can be interpreted that man and time are (obviously) linked and with that link man will always be connected to the present. Yes there is a future and yes there is a past, but people will always be facing consequences in their present no matter what will be done or what could have been done differently.

One other moment is when Nyamuragi’s uncle Jonathan was revealed to have been the mob leader so as to save Nyamuragi’s life at the cost of two things. He had to suggest, “… that the sentence be exemplary, that its execution be memorable, that the rapist be hung high and dry” (Baho! 81) and he did all that so that “…he granted Nyamuragi his life” (Baho! 90) which was effective at bruising and damaging his nephew but making sure that he lived. However the side effect of that cost meant that nothing would change in the area. In the novel, the woman were treated terribly and this event sort-of banded them together while also banding together the men who decided to punish Nyamuragi in the off chance that the woman start thinking that the other men should be punished and hoped to get in their good graces. While I doubt anything would have changed had Nyamuragi been killed, the ending still leaves that idea hanging about, with no certainty that the people will change only that the mute will live. And what I get from this is that even though there are events like this, atrocious crimes bringing people together while bringing out the ugliness in the same people, nothing will really change after the accused is dealt with. The people will still have to deal with this horridness, albeit at a more alert awareness for a brief period. Nothing has changed, only that the people have became more aware and will act the same until another incident like this repeats itself.

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In the story of Baho! by Roland Rugero, we are given the circumstances of a mute man who unfortunately is accused of rape due to a misunderstanding. While the story focuses on the mute, Nyamuragi, and his accusers using him as a lightning rod for the problems they also created, the story has an interesting way of talking about humanity.

In one instance we see Nyamuragi reminiscing about his youth, after he became permanently mute we see that, ” Nyamuragi had learned too early, and at his own expense, that life is composed of dualities… As long as that duality is present in every breath, life will continue with ease; between the two poles of the duality, everything can be compared.” (Baho! 13) and with that we get an idea of this world where people will be  divided. Everything will stay the same except for what the people will compare amongst themselves is better in this world of duality. No matter how much change there is they will always be duality, with ideals to oppose one another and compare themselves to another.

Another instance of Humanity is when the Burundi men gather to discuss what Nyamuragi did to Kigeme and how the women are reacting to the situation. In fact when the woman are reacting to the situation (very gloomingly), the men, “…tactlessly comment on the gloomy murmur rising from the feminine sex below…. Their honor must be avenged because their domain has been desecrated… Excuse me! Him! That unfortunate freak of nature. He has desecrated their domain and sullied their wealth” (Baho! 26) which shows that the men don’t really care for the women or at the very least see them as less than people and more as valuable objects (after all the women are reacting this way because the men in the area have treated most of them terribly). The men act terribly towards the women who care for them and now that they (the women) are coming together and reacting to this built up mistreatment, the men must act as if they are in the right by punishing Nyamuragi, the worst offender in the spotlight. Though the men don’t really contemplate on their actions, only that they themselves must react to the situation and be in the women’s favor less they start asking to judge the men who mistreat them.


Relevance: The women criticize the men because the men treated them terribly, and the men (while acknowledging they are terrible) don’t really see that their behavior is the problem to the women.

Finally, another thing that the novel touches on Humanity is that words have become weak with one another. An example is the saying “May I undress my daughter if I stole the money!” which originally was a strong saying that because no one would dare believe that a father would do such a heinous act. Now thanks to the wars fought in their country, where countless heinous acts were committed and burned into the memories of everyone, these words have lost power. In fact, “”In public, swearing by “Ndaka…” “May I…”, now provokes disapproval. If shared, it then becomes disgust”( Baho! 43) and a man who does swear by this, “… will quickly find himself presumed guilty of the act. Out of caution. While waiting for the evidence” ( Baho! 43).  And this shows that the people who live there have lost faith in one another, with a saying that would normally provide  an atmosphere of innocence until proven guilty now leading to the people immediately judging the man guilty before he is placed on trial. It’s similar to how people in America would usually believe an “I’m innocent” or “I apologize for this misconduct (sexual or other”, which would leave the accused with the benefit of the doubt, now leading the accused to be immediately seen as guilty in the eyes of the people. In other words, we have lost hope in humanity.

That’s how much an apology means nowadays, how much words have lost their power to the poeple. It can be mocked and picked apart to the bones because deep down it doesn’t convince you that that person is genuinely sincere. They’re only protecting their image until people forget.

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Integrity & Disintegrity: Costs and Consequences

In the novel Tram 83 by Fiston Mujila, we are given two characters, Lucien and Requiem, and we focus on their actions in this fictional city-state that mirrors the real-life DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo).  In it, they are surrounded by a chaotic stability in this almost lawless land that is corrupted to its core. And with the characters of Lucien and Requiem, we see these aspects of integrity and disintegrity and the results of their choices.

Let’s start with Lucien, who tries to maintain a moral righteousness in this very unruly land. According to Mortal Combat,a criminal associate of Requiem,his description of Lucien’s lifestyle is that,” You, don’t smoke, you don’t eat dog, you don’t raid the Polygon, you don’t deliver merchandise, you flee the girls, you don’t take liquor, I wonder what you do in life!” (Tram 83, 165)and with this we get more of an idea of what Lucien does in order to keep himself morally upright in this criminal environment. With him not participating in what we perceive as horrible actions, we see that he tries to uphold himself from going along with what everyone else perceives as normal (ex. smoking, eating dog, delivering stolen goods, having sex with woman of any age, drinking) And yet while is a better person than most people we read about in the novel, there’s always a cost.

The consequences of Lucien’s actions tend to not work out for himself in the long run of the novel. After discovering that Emilienne was pimping out baby chicks,girls usually under sixteen years old, he abandons her at the cost of her financial assistance ( he is broke and nearly homeless by this time) and is followed by this narration, ” Why do you keep trying to exceed the limit of tolerability? What kind of man are you? Is the reality of life not sufficient for your conscience? Must you deprive yourself of the pleasures of the underbelly to be a writer? What idiocy to want to pass yourself off as a hero? Ultimately, what exactly is the conscience of a writer who won’t open his eyes?” (Tram 83, 193) which showcases the costs of Lucien’s integrity. He rubs people to the point where they can’t tolerate him, becoming an outcast to the Tram and others in order to write,coming off as a white sheep amongst black sheep who. Ultimately, he ignores most of the terrible things that are happening while he tries to uphold himself to a higher standard that costs him greatly.

Next we have Requiem, who embodies disintegrity; acting more on malintentions rather than good intentions. This is evident when we discover his criminal operation,”Requiem possessed nude photographs of some two hundred and fifty tourists. They were completely at his feet. They bought him drinks, paid money into his account each month, revered him almost” (Tram 83,102)and this shows how much Requiem throws away his moral compass of human decency. While it could be argued that what Requiem is doing is a sort of twisted justice ( the tourists themselves aren’t a innocent bunch), Requiems blackmailing is still a despicable thing to do. Not to mention the countless other crimes he commits that everyone else, besides Lucien, seem to have embraced (ex. eating dog, lying, cheating, stealing, killing, engaging in prostitution among an unknown number of crimes). Yet he still gets his dues later on.

Later in the novel, we see some of the costs that Requiems criminality have costed him. Before his departure from the living space he was sharing with Lucien, Requiem,”Sometimes he came back bleeding like a sponge. Sometimes he showed up virtually naked…’You know what I owe a Greek ship-owner $5,765,000 in two mornings’ time. What to do? He swears he’ll have my hide.'” (Tram 83, 174) which showcases several instances of Requiems disintegrity causing himself to be hurt, humiliated, and paying dearly for the consequences. Yet, despite all this, even when he was mobbed out of the Tram, he always got back on his feet and with almost no consequences to himself. His criminal actions, while always coming with a cost, hardly affected Requiem and he gets back and with a stronger resolve to commit more malintent.

In the end this tells us that the city-state Fiston Mujila created is chillingly close to the reality of the DRC. Where people with good intentions are mocked and ridiculed,having to turn a blind eye to the immoral happenings around them which costs them more than they can bargain against. And yet those with malintentions repeatedly act on criminal actions, pay the consequences to a degree and then… nothing. Their criminal actions are a few compared to the many criminal actions that people have embraced in that part of the world, and people like Requiem would only be punished unless they committed grave offenses that people can’t get over. In total, people with integrity, those who try to be morally upright, are treated worse and have to turn a blind eye to the worst things in a place like the city-state while the people with disintegrity, those who act with more malintent, repeatedly do so and, while punished to a degree, continue to make the lives of the people miserable.

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And the suffering continues.


The Journey to the Otherside


In the story of Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera we are introduced to Makina, who is the opposite of the archetypical Latina woman, who is being sent to the other side of the border in order to search & bring home her brother, a young and ambitious man who journeyed to the anglo cities across the border.

Through this journey to the other side, we are shown this idea of what the other side of the border is for people like Makina’s brother and other ambitious people who want more than their current life can provide.

First, let me direct your attention to Makina. She starts this journey by gathering favors among the underworld. Before she heads out of the Casino of Mr. Q, one of the local crime lords, we see her turn towards a mirror in which,” … in front of her was her back: she looked behind but found only the neverending front, curving forward, as if inviting her to step through its thresholds. If she crossed them all… she’d reach the right place, but it was a place she didn’t trust.” (22) which to me shows that Makina, even though she has a chance to go to the Anglo cities with all those opportunities, only wants to return home and while she might see the opportunities, she sees them as less important and wouldn’t trust whenever she ended up in the Anglo’s.

Meanwhile, with Makina’s brother, he went there because he was told there was land there (supposedly) from his late father. In fact, after getting drunk and being encouraged by one of Mr. Aitch’s (another of the crime lord’s) henchman he said, ” Someone’s got to fight for what’s ours and I got the balls if you don’t” (29) which shows that despite being uncertain and somewhat manipulated, he decided to journey to the Anglo cities. Not because, as I interpret it, he wanted to but because he saw an opportunity for himself on the other side and he took it because no one else wanted to.

By the end of the story, we see the result of Makina’s journey and the result of her brother’s. We see that through her experience she deals with a harsher environment, a world that confuses (the attempts at finding her brothers location) and discriminates against her (cops profiling her from afar, an officer almost arresting her). She does seem to enjoy some aspects of the life there such as the homegrown-Anglo people and the same-sex wedding ceremony she witnessed (mostly the emotions she felt witnessing the onlookers being happy). Her end result’s with being given the opportunity to become a citizen of the Anglos with a fake identity.

On the other hand, the result of her brothers journey is that he is matured, by taking on the identity of a family’s Anglo son who joined the Army recklessly. He agreed to go in his place because of his early struggles there and, through his experience, has matured and wants to stay because, while he’s not an Anglo citizen, he wants to understand why they fight for their country, why it matters to them.

Before I end, the concept of the journey is meant to convey the growth of a character through experiences that challenge or inspire them. With Makina, we see her experiences in her travels to find her brother, while also being inspired a bit by the Anglo livelihood; her brother faced poverty and warfare and matured because of it and also stays there to understand why they fight for their country. Both characters were challenged in their journeys and inspired by the Anglo homeland that has given the both of them an opportunity to do more for themselves here.

A Division of Society

The story of Utopia by Ahmed Khaled Towfik and translated by Chip Rossetti provides a more extremist view of social divergence.

In it, he presents the story  in the near future of 2023, introducing us to the rich’s side through “Alaa”, the heir to one of the many rich men in this “Utopia”. It is a place that is cut off from the poorer part of the population, surrounded by a gated fence and protected by former military personnel.  Their city is full of abundant resources and they have civil order.

There we see their younger generation, who show little respect to their elders, to religion, to whatever was sacred before their time. They are also physically better than the Others, with “Alaa” describing it as, “I don’t mean that we are immortal, but we’ve  transcended illness and accidents” (Towfik 20).  We also see through “Alaa’s” action that despite their luscious and turbulent lifestyle, they are bored with their existence.

Yet despite their boredom, they seek thrills by taking drugs and risking their lives but they still are bored. That’s when they mention hunting, a rite of passage and ultimate thrill for these elitist children. They simply go to the city of the Others and either kill or torture them, often having a trophy to show off among themselves.

And it isn’t until we are introduced to the poor’s side with Gaber, an Other that struggles to make a living, that we see more of the divide between these different classes. Their cities are in ruins and they struggle to eat, they battle sickness and try not to die fighting among themselves for resources.

Hunger, disease and violence is more open among them because they are struggling with their harsh existence and attempts to rise against it have been put down before. Though they aren’t innocent themselves, you sympathize with them because they act more human than those of Utopia.

From all of this we can gather that the citizens of Utopia and the citizens of the Others have diverged socially. The Utopians are elitist who believe they have a right to do what they want simply because they can and because boredom dictates them to. It helps with the fact that nobody can stand up against them because they have more power than the Others. They are like gods looking down on mortals (Others) and deciding to use their existence as a means to pass the time. The “mortals” suffer due to the influence of these “gods” whose culture has influence over their existence but is far from similar to their own.

Essentially, the Utopians are mighty with power and use it to live lavishly while the Others suffer continuously with both living in contrasting social environments.