Fake news came before social media

When news filtered in from London that Vice President Wamalwa Kijana was in the other world, sipping this and that with his ancestors, elders of the Baengele clan gathered to whisper. And when they rose, the first decree they issued was that Wamalwa’s body would not be subjected to an autopsy.

“Omwami sakhebungwa khabiri tawe (a king is not circumcised twice)!” the sages ruled. How they equated a cut on the belly to circumcision is one of those things you cannot understand unless your umbilical code is buried on this continent and your ancestors speak to you in dreams. This story is, however, not about dreams.

My eyes opened a few decades after the collapse of the great Wanga Kingdom. By the way, now that Nandi County wants historical boundaries with Kisumu tinkered with, my King should demand that the boundaries of the Wanga Kingdom revert to when we reigned from Naivasha to Uganda, which, in my esteemed view is a fat lie!

Anyway, one day, Grandpa, who was a peerless story teller, whispered to me that my people do not bury two people in one grave. This story came about because an expectant woman had died, and the clan wanted the foetus surgically removed and buried in its own graves.

“Doctors have eaten books, but they are stupid.  There is an old man across the ridge. You pay him a cow. He sits up the woman in the position of labour, administers medicine and tells her, ‘Give birth to your baby, woman’, and she pushes the baby out,” the old man explained.

This is not the sort of discussion a seven year old has with an adult, but Grandpa and I had a special relationship, one borne of two people who detest facts getting in the way of a good story.

Typical of a good yarn, we did not bother about rigor mortis, or how dead muscles could be sweet-talked with medicine to convulse and chuck out a baby, an experience one White woman described as akin to shitting a watermelon.

Equally, reasons why such a gifted man had never been sought by universities and hospitals to execute his peculiar magic did not arise.

It appeared the mystery man simply lived “across the ridge”, but no one knew his name or village. No man whose late wife had passed through his hands was ever identified and no name of a dead woman who was ordered to give birth, and obliged, was ever mentioned. But that did not stop this juicy tale from going viral in the village for years like a burst of fake news.

Many years later, when I became a newspaper editor, I sent out a journalist to get to the bottom of this matter. The poor fellow crawled through every chang’aa den in my hood.

He interviewed everyone he bumped into spotting gray hair, chatted up a witch or two who had seen the light and spoke to wrinkled village midwives.

None knew the identity of the mysterious village medic, his grave or descendants. Fake news- fake!

[email protected]

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Sde.co.ke


JOIN THE CONVERSATION


next