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City of Banjul
Friday, October 30, 2020

The adventures of Alkatan Part 7

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Following his encounter with Kiyanka, Alkatan had many visitors who came to thank him for advising the Alkalo to give some of his cows in charity, to return their goats and to stop asking them to pay their goats as taxes. People were amazed that Alkatan could convince the uncompromising Alkalo to do all these things and they invariably expressed their profound gratitude to him. Many came with gifts in the form of food, grain or chickens. Alkatan reluctantly accepted the food and the grain but he politely declined all the chickens, arguing that he could not take care of them.

The stories Alkatan heard from the villagers about Kiyanka and Afang Jelkat made him hold his head in his hands and wonder at the human capacity for cruelty. It turned out that Nyaka was not the only person whose goat was forcefully seized by the Alkalo. In fact, Kiyanka was in the habit of having Afang Jelkat and his men visit any man who was late in giving a goat and having them forcefully take their goats, and if they resisted, to beat them up with sticks. In the execution of his orders from Kiyanka, Afang Jelkat went the extra mile in dealing with the villagers in any way he wanted. No wonder Jelkat had an infamous reputation for cruelty among the villagers.

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“Eh, I was sick and couldn’t take my goat to the Alkalo in time,” one man told Alkatan. “One morning Afang Jelkat came to my compound with his men. All of them were armed with sticks. I was sitting with my family outside. When they came they did not even greet us. They went straight to my goats and untied the biggest one. When I came over and tried to tell them to take another goat, one of Jelkat’s men pushed me and hit me with his stick. When I protested, Jelkat said, beat him up and they all fell upon me – four of them – and beat me with their sticks. My wife and children were screaming and so the neighbors came and intervened. That was the only reason they didn’t kill me. When I went to tell the Alkalo what happened he said I brought it upon myself because I refused to pay my taxes. That’s what Jelkat did to Khibone, Monding and many others. Khibone was sickly all his life and he died a few months after Jelkat’s men beat him so severely. Alkatan, everyone is grateful that you convinced the Alkalo to stop his madness. Only God can pay you.”

Another man told Alkatan that when Afang Jelkat and his men arrived in his compound, they did not greet anybody and just went straight to the goats and untied the biggest one. And when he protested, Jelkat’s men fell upon him and beat him up in front of his family. “See, they broke three of my teeth,” the man said, raising his upper lip with his finger and showing Alkatan his gums. “When that happened I went to report the matter to the Alkalo. He asked me to get out of his compound or get beaten again. I then went to Nyabiti Kunda to report the matter to Chief Hulibot, who is Kiyanka’s uncle. Eh, when I told him what happened, Chief Hulibot laughed and said that I brought the beating on myself because a subject must always obey his master. He then warned me never to come to him with such complaints again if I wanted peace. So I came back here and I was preparing to leave this village with my family when I heard what you did. Thank you Alkatan.”

Alkatan had many other people come to his door with similar tales of woe, but he had never seen anyone as desperate-looking as the girl who came running to his hut one afternoon. She was crying bitterly and in her tear-filled voice, she begged Alkatan to please help her or she would die. Alkatan gently asked her to calm down and stop crying. He ushered her into his hut, asked her to sit on his modest bed, offered her some water to drink, and sat on the mat across the hut, all the while asking her not to cry. When the girl eventually calmed down, Alkatan asked, “And what did you say your sweet name is, my daughter?”

“My name is Nyinya,” the girl responded.

“Nyinya,” Alkatan repeated. “That’s a very beautiful name. Now tell me Nyinya, you say Imam Sukuro is trying to kill you. How is he trying to kill you, and why?”

“He says he wants to marry me and my father says I must marry him,” the girl said. “And if I marry him I will die Ba Alkatan. I would rather die than marry Imam Sukuro. He is even older than my father and his granddaughter is my best friend. Since we were little children we did everything together. How can I marry Sima’s grandfather? And he already has four wives, some of whom are older than my mother. Just last year he married Dinding, who is just one year older than me. He beats her all the time and accuses her of playing around. Even if she goes to the well he beats her.”

“Aha,” Alkatan said. “That is not good. And I know you told your father that you do not want to marry the imam.”

“Yes,” Nyinya replied. “I told him. I told everyone I will never marry Imam Sukuro. My mother says as far as she is concerned, it is left to me. But my father says I must marry the imam because I am old enough to get married and he saw no problem with me marrying Sukuro.”

“And the imam himself? What did he say about that?”

“The imam insists that I must marry him. He always goes to my father and tells him that he is the only one who can take me to heaven. That he saw in his knowledge that if he does not marry me and do for me some prayers, I will go to hell when I die.”

“Ah!” Alkatan sighed. “As if he knows that already.”

“As for Imam Sukuro, he thinks he knows everything. He is a hypocrite. And he is a very cruel man. I will never marry him Ba Alkatan! I would rather die. Please help me.”

“He will never touch you,” Alkatan assured her. “He will not even come near you.”

“But my father says they will tie the marriage tomorrow afternoon and I will be handed over to the imam tomorrow night,” the girl said. “That’s why I ran away from home and came here because I know you can help me Ba Alkatan.”

“Aha,” Alkatan said, nodding his head. “It shall be well. He will never touch you. Here’s what we will do. We will go to the imam’s compound and I will have a word with him. I think he will change his mind about marrying you. Come on, let’s go have a chat with the imam.”

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