…No, no, no! Come on! I won’t spend a whole night memorising all this! Especially not in a language as complicated as this!? No, no no, what is it, finally? Really, what is it? But what are they like, these ministers and advisers of mine? They are the geniuses, aren’t they? So, despite all the years spent studying abroad, they only learned to produce speeches as unworthy and as indigestible as this! The lie has gone on for too long! We have lied enough! Macro economy, development, inflation… No! Enough! Not that far! I will no longer give speeches like that! Enough is enough! Look at this! Ten pages of lies in a language I still can’t express myself in as well as the others! And the result is that I end up looking like an imbecile! Others come, strut about with just a piece of paper and give out speeches with an ease that would convince even the most sceptic person. And that, that is normal… But wait, why can I not speak in my language? What are we scared of? Really? I’m not a young man anymore… Look at this greying beard on my chin! It is true; I have grown old! And I have put on weight. Middle-age spread, it is good for a chief, isn’t it? Oh my God, I have a greying beard! And my wife hasn’t been kind enough to let me know. If I hadn’t looked in the millor. Sorry! Mirol ! F…! Sorry. De Miror! Aïe ! The millor! Ah, goodness, I have had enough! So if I hadn’t looked at myself in a looking glass, I wouldn’t have known. Ah! And this millor affair… eish, it is really starting to get on my presidential palace. Sorry. It is starting to get on my nerves. How can they force a mature man like me to do a practice run of his speeches before a millor… eh, Mirol… eish, in front of a looking glass to be sure that I would do it well once I’m standing on that platform? Ah, it is getting on my tits! That so-called communication expert found nothing better but to make me, a mature man like me with a greying beard, speak before a millor… ah, before a looking glass; one would think I was a retard! He will hear me. I will sack him. As soon as I finish with this thing of assembry… eh, Assembr… ah, The General Assembly of the United Nations, I will show him the door. Besides, I don’t see what he does that is so great! Even if my wife thinks she is the best thing since sliced bread. She is always on at me that it is thanks to him that I have acquired this mastery of the language, and that he’s even helped me overcome my shyness! Listen to that! Women! Me, shy!? The punishment she got made her regret those words, I hope. If she continues with talks like that, it won’t just be her portrait I will do this time. Me, ‘shy’!? Me who took weapons, me who walked in forests teeming with wild animals, me who won over the old man with the leopard hat, me who kicked him out of this country! Me! Me, the Supreme Chief of this country; me, ‘shy’!? The next time she utters a word like that about me, I will beat her so hard I might just kill her. No, I’m not shy. As that young man said, “… it is the way I am; I don’t like to waste my breath on endless chatter. It doesn’t mean I’m shy!” All that to subdue someone/me with a foreign language. The so-called language of intelligent people! That’s taking the piss! I will no longer give this speech! Let the minister with the red tie and his chatty colleague come here and translate this speech for me in Swahili, no, in Lingala. Better do it in Lingala! If they translate it in Swahili, my people might not take it too well. Anyway, let them translate it in a language they like, what I care about is that this speech is translated into one of our languages! Let them sort that out among themselves… And they are well paid. Let them pay the person who will translate! Am I a Chief or am I not a Chief? I can’t always let things carry on as usual! Them, they do their speeches with ease in their languages; us, we twist our languages in a way only God knows, in order to speak like them in languages in which we are not at ease. No, no, no! It ends here! I will no longer play that game! I agree with the old man with the leopard hat; he really was a man. He did grasp the truth! This is taking the piss! And I have grown old! Look at this greying beard! I no longer have anything to fear from anyone! Look at this greying beard on my chin. Eh, I have really grown old! But where is this woman? Where is she? Let her come and see this greying beard! The beard of wisdom! The beard of Power! And let her not, not even once, repeat what she said last time… That will really be the accomplishment of a chimère, or that dream in which the cock had teeth. Let’s hope that this cock will sing the ‘cocorico’!
The shamans warned me about that woman, and where are we today? How stubborn was I! If I had known! What do I have now? She talks to me of things with neither head nor tail… Like I must go! Go where? Listen to these women who know nothing of high politics! Me, a robust man with all my strength intact, with all the sacrifices I made; go, just like that! Where? In this country? They will kick me out; I will be as worthless as vulgar toilet paper! Everywhere I go, they will laugh at me! Me, leave! She will be the one who will leave… She will leave this palace and will leave me there! I will not leave! Where do they want me to go? They want to see me in that room, willy nilly raising my hand morning and evening? All of them, they have a grudge against me! I know, the day they get their hands on me, they will be merciless. They will put it all on the table, every case, the real ones as well as the fake ones! I know them very well. I’m not a child, am I? I’m no longer the apprentice they used to send from pillar to post when I was starting out. Now, I’m battle-hardened; I have developed the ‘idology’, to speak like that other one. He made me laugh a lot with those words, especially where our languages were concerned. I think I should send for him. He needs to speak to me some more about that idea. It is finished, it is finished! I will only read that speech in one of our languages. I no longer like that speech in French! They want us to laugh like them. Do everything like them. Eat like them. Think like them. Dress like them. Come on now! Where are we and where are we going? When we don’t do those things, we are thought of as stupid. Before the eyes of our own brothers, we are subjected to various taunts. It’s terrible. No, it is exasperating! I even think I will do away with the suit and the matching tie! My father was right. We need to bring back the Safari. Yes, we need to go back to that style! The funny thing is that, that’s what I used to wear at the beginning before those confounded teachers dissuaded me. But what are they doing being with me? They spend years studying and end up even more stupid. Just seeing them, and I no longer want to carry on with my studies. Look at them, all confounded human-beings! The only thing they know is how to copy the white man. The same people who maltreated our forefathers. They forget that our forefathers fought against that. French all the time! Makes you think of parrots! The worst thing is that if the tongue of one of them slips, they mock and humiliate the person. What kind of people are these? Who told them that speaking English or French is a sign of intelligence? They are ashamed of speaking their language, the language of their forefathers. They forget that language influences personality and customs.
There, at that Assembly, you will see a Chinese speak Chinese, the French proudly speak French, the Ukrainian will speak Ukrainian, the Israeli will speak Hebrew, the Pakistani will speak Arabic but when it comes to the Black man, he will speak either French or English. Africans have no other choice but the languages inherited from colonisation and more than fifty years after the Independences, they favour those languages over their own. It is pitiable! Let me clap eyes on them here tomorrow, those ministers and advisers!
Listen to me and listen well! You will read this speech in your language! It is their problem if they don’t like it! In fact, that’s our goal! I have actually sent away their representative from my country but they don’t go. Quite the opposite, they send me another one. They don’t want to go. They will see! They will get their just deserts. I have reached the end of my term in power but I will not leave! All I know to do is give orders, sign documents, open roads and bridges, go here and there as I wish… They all believe my accomplishments. In a short amount of time, I have done quite a fair bit. It is plenty enough for me to stay at the palace as long as the old man with the leopard hat. Ah, I mustn’t say his name; the shamans warned me against that! And I don’t know why. What would happen if I say his name? Will he appear before me? Will the ground open? Will the Cock with teeth crow? Will the Sky darken, just like that? Let them stop their nonsense a little bit, these shamans! They are being a bit too much! Don’t stare at this old man, don’t smile at your wife in the morning, don’t take a shower in the morning, don’t eat raw chili… I have had enough of all the bans. It is getting a bit much ! And I’m doing all that to stay in power. And with all that, they want me to leave power!? But the shamans will kill me! And my wife doesn’t know it but the shamans aren’t satisfied yet. I must stay until the day they say it is enough. If I stop now, they will do me. They will do to me what they did to the old man with the leopard hat. Ah, I want to say his name, but… He really did reign for a long time. So many years! I will do more than him. People won’t believe it. Even my elder from the other side of the river will not believe it. He will only say, “If I knew!” These days, Chiefs don’t play with that. You need a few tricks up your sleeve to stay in power. It is basically like an egg. A Chief needs to be like le vendeur ambulant of eggs. He mustn’t listen to everything that is said. Especially the things said by the opposition. They are especially the ones distracting the population. They need to do it for sometime and after a while, you call one or two of them to bribe or share a bit of your power with one of them; then, they will keep quiet. Others will pop up, and you will do the same thing. I know there are some who keep to their stance but they can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Efficient strategies are needed… They advised me of their ideas and all sorts of strategies but none of them seemed efficient to me. But look, with just the help of the shamans’ gri-gris, I have been able to put in place a strategy that even the most intelligent of them had not come up with; a strategy no other Chief, either living or dead had not been able to think of! They will speak to me about it! They will see! I will unveil it when I’m at that platform…The whole world won’t believe its ears! Pouahh! What’s that? That, that is witchcraft! Who dares tempt me at this time? Eh, a fly!? At an hour like this in the Chief’s palace? Ah, ah, ah, those can’t be but my wife’s attacks! She has seen that I hold the best cards and she wants to do away with me! Never! She won’t have me! Eh, there are now two flies! What’s that? They are above my head! What’s that? Never before has a fly been able to come into my palace. I have never heard a fly in this palace. I would understand it, if it were during the day, but at 3 in the morning? No. Impossible! It can only be someone attacking me! It can only be my wife! Look, ever since I started jabbering before this millor… de mirrol, she hasn’t moved from the bed. Today and only this night, she sleeps like a log. She’s not heard all the noise I have been making this evening with this indigestible speech with neither head nor tail. She won’t have me. I’m not a child, come on! I already have a greying beard. She will see. I will kill those flies! I know they are spirits she sent to spy on me and take my beautiful ideas, and then kill me this evening. They won’t have me. My spirits also are here and they are protecting me. Eh, look at this! They are carrying on. But what is it, really? This woman has found nothing better than to send me flies at this hour? Well, it won’t be my fault; I will kill them. Her also, if she is among these flies. In any case, I would only be killing flies. Eh, look at this, they really are bad spirits. Look at how they go up to the ceiling to hide. You see, these are just attacks. Because they couldn’t defeat me in the flesh, they now try to do so in spirit. Yet they know that in the dark houses I frequent, I will exterminate them.
I will send for my ministers and advisers tomorrow. Let them come and let us think of the way I will unveil my strategy at that platform. I know I will surprise them with my strategy. The person who came up with the stupid idea of ‘Fufu-dézir, Fufu-dézir’, that person himself will see just how much of an idiot he is for proposing that idea. In this country where people know every little of the manoeuvre of politicians, giving them an idea as immature and stupid as that, ‘Fufu-dézir, Fufu-dézir’ bollocks! Men as educated and experimented as them do nothing but spew bullshit with their rhetoric. You just put a ship on water and watch them bombastically give out empty speeches. We will talk about all that at this morning’s meeting. In a huge country such as ours and in this day, we can’t keep on living in fear! I did tell them I would do new contracts with the Chinese but they all stood up against me as if I had committed a crime, or killed someone. Excellence, you see, if you do that, the others will see that you are not doing things as they want and if you insist, they will take you out of your presidential seat, so don’t do that! But, these people, they are crazy! They don’t care one jot about the country. Today, thanks to that, we have been able to do lot of things. Now see them praising me and saying, “All hail the father of the economic independence of our country!” Kiékiékié! I was dead with laughter when they said that.
It is true that power is another thing altogether. Have money and you will be feared by people. Do away with people who stand up to you. Those ones are always there. They always die poor but their names stay, even longer than those who had money and had a name when they were alive. What can you say? Life is a question of chance. Me, myself, who could have believed it? But see how I have become a great man! Look at the robust man I have become. Look at these biceps. I have become big. Look at me! Eh, look at me! Hum! Good morning, Excellence! That’s the Head of State! Eh, are you really looking at yourself ? Really look at yourself, please. Do you know you have really changed? Eh, look at that greying beard. The beard of health! The beard of good living! Do you know, you surprise me. I don’t believe my ears. It’s like a game. It is me who holds the reins of chiefhood. Who will say otherwise? Today, I have the last word on everything. Everyone knows me. My name has gone around the world. It has crossed seas. It has entered forests. It has flown to the Americas, to Oceania, India, Iran. It has flown over the Sahara. Every language has said my name! My name has been in every conversation, like that other one sang. My name… It will be heard even more two days after my speech at that platform. Let them wait. They will see. They won’t believe it. They will say, “ My goodness, the child has grown!!!” I know. Others will come to me and ask me to say their names in my speech. They will see. I will say it in Lingala. Kinois’ Lingala. Kinshasa-Makambo. Kinshasa-mboka-te. Oh yes! And me, leave Kinshasa like that!? Never! This idea is the best. Yes, it is true, good ideas are born at night. That’s why writers like to write at night. Writers. Another breed of rudder-less people! Especially ours, the Black ones. Up to this day, they are trying to write in a language that’s not theirs; a foreign language. They are ashamed of writing in their own language. The other writes in his language, the language he speaks everyday, the language he showers in, the language he sleeps in, the language he dreams in, the language he thinks in, his brothers speak this language, his whole country speaks this language, but he makes no effort to write in that language. They prefer the foreign languages to their own. Even to laugh, they want to laugh like the foreigners. I have heard that a writer in Kenya has consolidated himself in that vision. He now only writes in his language. I would like to ask to meet him; I could do it during my stopover in that country before flying to the States. I need to hear him. I have heard a lot about him. He even got arrested for this language problem. Others need to follow his example. Children of Africa must stand up. They must speak to each other. They need to wake up. They need to resurrect! That’s why I will do a speech without any concession at that platform. I will do it in my language. Let him who can hear it hear it. But I know they will all be surprised! They will all want to meet me. They will want to take a picture with me. Oh, how beautiful is the night! I will burn all these papers. We will write another speech in the morning. We will write down real words, the ones that come from the heart. We will no longer deal in lies. We will no longer fear anyone and no-one will make us scared. I will say it at the Platform. We will take every disposition in the morning regarding that. One of my advisers needs to do a speech after me that will render everyone breathless. I will do mine at the platform there. It is normal. There is nothing to fear. It will all come from here. This time, we won’t miss the opportunity. We will write history. Let them speak. Fifty years! It is enough. I will speak. I will tell them…
Two days later…
At the Platform Of the General Assembly of the United Nations:
“…Ladies and gentlemen from around the world; from everything I have told you whilst being at this platform, the most important is what will follow. We have started as you know, to prepare for the elections which are to take place in the coming days… But, but, look, my brothers and sisters, put yourselves in my place, our country has yet to know peace and the hardest thing is what has just befallen us! Ladies and gentlemen, we can no longer hide this from you. Health experts have just said with certitude that our country is dealing with a pandemic of ‘EBOLA!!!’ They have even said that this time, it is even more virulent and dangerous than what our country previously suffered… This time, it is ‘Ebola++’. Yes, Ladies and gentlemen, I said ‘Ebola++!’. This epidemic is deadlier than any other disease we’ve ever known. While we are here speaking, the damage caused by this virus just keep growing in our country. The capital city is the one that is most hit by this epidemic. The experts have advised that we take extreme measures of caution. There will be no entry or exit. Every border will be closed. The most distressing thing is that this state of affairs will go on for a while – until a solution is found. That is why we have decreed an ‘Emergency State’. As Westerners sometimes say, ‘Health has no price!’ As such, because of the alarming state in which this epidemic Ebola++ has put our country in, elections will be held in four years’ time…”
Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Richard ALI A MUTU KAHAMBO, better known under the name of Richard Ali lives in Kinshasa where he studied law. He has been selected for some literary prizes such as the Mark Twain Prize in November 2009. In 2011, his collection of short stories, Le Cauchemardesque de Tabu” was published by Mabiki and then by Mediaspaul Publishing in 2015. His novel, EBAMBA, Kinshasa-Makambo, written in Lingala helped him be selected by the Africa39 project as one of the best 39 young African writers in 2014.
He is the founder and the president of the Association of Young Congolese Writers (AJECO), a TV presenter on literature and a copywriter consultant. He collaborates on different cultural projects both at national and international levels.