Opinion

The house of snakes

(True story of residential plot grabbing in Juba city)

The house of snakes is a true story of what happened between an over 85 year’s old, destitute and childless widow and a General in Juba – na – Bari in Juba city. This is just one of such true stories. Despite these true stories and gruesome outcomes for the perpetrator, there are still some daring individuals who still do the same residential, investment and other land grabs without caring about possible outcomes. Unfortunately, the outcomes of such “grabs” occur when the aggrieved owners left Juba and are untraceable or already deceased and any impending damages to perpetrators would no longer be reparable as there would be nobody to ask for forgiveness or to be compensated. In such a case, any conflict resolution method would not work. Beware, do not follow the General’s footsteps because you might be less lucky than the General!

The old widow in this example had a plot of land on which she had a small hut in which she lived. To eke out a living, in addition to selling crackers of groundnuts and tasali, during the rainy season, she did vegetable gardening around her 1, 050 sq meters compound and at Kopuri which is about 10 kilometers – west of Juba. The old woman, apart from her neighbors who had also their livelihoods to eke out around Juba and had hardly any time for her apart from saying “salaam habuba”, had only one relative who visited her once in a long while.

About 10 years ago, an army General, probably after carefully studying the woman, decided that if he evicted the widow out of her piece of land, she would pose very little or no challenge, asked the woman to leave but she refused to do so and when one of her nearest neighbors advised her to open a case in the Ministry of Physical Infrastructure, she replied “is it not the same government people who are the real causes of these problems? Let me just leave”, and the adviser just gave up. After several vein attempts, the General decided to bring lorry loads of building materials and started to build a concrete fence. Seeing this, the old woman removed her few belongings and went to an empty land at Kopuri, where she used to farm during the rainy season. Before she left on two Bodaboda motorcycles, she told the armed body guards, “As God promised in Malachi 3: 5, “I will be a swift witness against those….who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow …, and do not fear me,…”. Jehovah will fight the enemies of the poor, utterly defeat them and restore the rights of the poor. Hearing this, the armed soldiers laughed her off and, jokingly, said “ya habuba, de kalam faaarik” (literarily meaning “grandmother, that is nonseeense”). In Kopuri, she made a makeshift shelter or rokuba under a tree for her to live in and, there, she started life in a new environment.  

Meanwhile, her residential land grabber was working hard to complete the fence around the old woman’s land without anyone challenging him and he felt contented as his violently grabbed property was well guarded by a large number of armed soldiers. Because nobody challenged him, he built a sophisticated modern house which took the better of the 1, 050 sq meters plot of land. After construction of the glamorous house which was heavily protected by armed soldiers, he brought in his family which was living in Nairobi – in Kenya and they started living in his newly constructed luxurious house on the old woman’s grabbed residential plot of land.

One day, at about 10: 00 am when he was at work, his wife went shopping, some of the children went to school and one girl was left at home, under the usual armed military guards, watching television alone in the house, some very strange and unusual phenomenon occurred. 

The little girl who was left at home under armed military protection and watching satellite television, ran out hysterically and loudly shouting – snake, snake, snake…, to the armed guards who were on guard outside the fence. One soldier, dropping his gun on the ground, ran to and grabbed the girl into his arms. Meanwhile, some soldiers rushed into the satellite room, to find out what the problem was. When they reached the sitting room where the television was, they peered inside it and saw numerous snakes crawling all over the room, on the television rack, the sofa seats, on the floor…., and they backed off also shouting snakes, snakes, snakes… When they were outside the house, they saw the same type of snakes crawling on the top the fence around the house and compound. This made them to rush out of the fence to find the others who also came closer to the gate to see what the pandemonium was all about. When they saw what was on the compound and turned back to pick up their guns which they put against the fence walls, the guns were surrounded by the same type of snakes and all had to run to the nearby street without their guns but with the one who rescued the girl with the girl tightly held to his breast.

From the road, on a MOTOROLLA walkie-talkie radio-call, the leader of the home guards screamingly called the almighty General who quickly came to the scene with more soldiers. Arriving at the scene, what he saw was too extraordinary for anything he ever saw in his lifetime? During all his liberation war experiences, the General never saw anything, more frightening and supernatural than this one. The pandemonium drew in the General’s (used to be the old widow’s neighbors) who were as baffled as the General and his team. Then, one of them (a man), in confidence, told the General that “this phenomenon is not happening for nothing. How did you acquire this land from the “habuba”? Left with no option, the General had to tell his new neighbor the truth about how he evicted the old, destitute and childless widow. Having been told the truth, the neighbor told him to look for the “habuba” and resolve any outstanding difference “otherwise, worse things might happen somewhere in future. Sadly, it might be death of your entire family members – one after another”.

Hearing this visibly frightened, the General asked whether his neighbor knew where the “habuba” would be found but the neighbor said he did not know the lady’s whereabouts. Heartbroken and more shaken that before, the General asked his neighbor who was now his potential savior, to make every effort to find her and said, “I will give you anything you ask from me for finding the “habuba”. After scanning his mind, the neighbor told him that there was a tailor at Malakia, who used to visit the woman. This opened up the General’s face and, excitedly, he asked his family’s potential savior to immediately take him to Malakia and, without any delay, he was accompanied to the tailor. Then, he told the tailor, who listened patiently for the whole story to be told. After hearing the entire story, the tailor told him that he did not know where the old widow was but he said that he needed the whole day to find out where she was. Then, General pleaded that he had no place to take his family members for the day and for many days to come and so the tailor should help him out, but the tailor insisted that he needed the remaining hours of the day to find the woman and the General should return at about 10: 00 am of the next day to find out on whether he found her.

On the following day, at hardly 9: 30 am, the General, with several body guards in a TOYOTA LAND CRUISER pick up car following him in his green TOYOTA LAND CRUISER V 8 CAR but, in a funeral like mood on his face, arrived at the tailor’s work place and the first question he asked in a soft but shaky voice was, “can we go now?” The tailor’s “yes” answer had a great effect on his moodiness and great relief which made the General to immediately walk towards his green vehicle whose engine was left idling. Without much ado, the tailor with another joined the General in the car and they drove off to Kopuri.

When they arrived at the widow’s home at Kopuri, the tailor asked the General and his entourage to wait afar while he consulted with the widow. When the tailor told the widow aloud that “this is the big man who wants to see you”, she burst out “why are you looking for me, big man? Do you want to kill me? What wrong did I do you? Are you the one who killed my husband and all my children so that you can molest me? Oh, my God! Where are you? Why do you leave such heartless people to molest the poor, weak and helpless people like me? God, when will you fight for the poor? Why, why, why…. Oh God, where are you? Then she burst out wailing, which drew in all her immediate neighbors to find out what was happening. Seeing this, the General and the gathered neighbors also burst out wailing in sympathy with the widow.

When the wailing calmed down, the General, on his knees, begged the widow to forgive him and said “today I will leave your land and I want nothing from you”. He repeated this two times then stood up before the widow, repeating “forgive me, forgive me, forgive me…Then the old lady beckoned the tailor to follow him and he silently followed him. The old lady, crawling on her knees, entered into her makeshift shelter (rokuba) and returned outside with an old rusty machete in her left hand then they walked a short distance to a little tree from which she cut off a branch and, out of it she chopped out a piece of about one foot long. Then, she whispered something into the tailor’s ear and said you can go. Hearing this, the General was hesitant and this made the old lady, without a word, to signal with her palm indicating “go, go” and the team started off to Juba na Bari.

On arrival outside the General’s new fenced home, the snakes were still found active, crawling along the fence and compound. While the others stood at the roadside, the tailor, with the piece of the tree branch in his hand, walked steadily to the General’s gate and, there, he drew a line from the gate to the nearby grass which, because of the rainy season, had grown tall. As soon as he had finished the line, by using the same piece of wood to make several beckoning signs towards the snakes, one extra-large snake which had a blood red horn on its head, started to follow the line into the grass. At the edge of the grass, it stopped and made way for those behind. After this, there followed a seemingly endless line of snakes of the same kind, followed it but proceeded into the grass. After what seemed an endless flow of snakes entering the tall grass, the semi-last one entered, followed by the leader – blood red horned snake entering the grass thus, leaving the house of snakes. While this happened, the atmosphere was silent as though there was no living soul nearby. So somber!

After the house of snakes was vacated by the snakes, the General, seemingly relieved, lifted his phone to his ears and talked loudly and hysterically to someone while frantically weaving his hands in the air. In a short while, a fleet of army Lorries arrived and emptied the house of snakes of anything. Leaving its doors wide open and without a trace of having been occupied and the house like a haunted house.



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