The Mysterious Odyssey of a Village Boy by Yankuba Mamburay

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By Dr Cherno Omar Barry,
President of Writers Association of The Gambia


Part one

The Unfolding of a Mystery


Chapter 1

As he lay on his royal bed, King Ulam wondered who else on earth could be undergoing what he went through as Malu, the village boy. He came to the conclusion that he would never allow such inhuman treatments to be meted on a fellow human being. He however resolved to harbor no grudges or hard feelings against those who subjected him to both the physical and psychological trauma. Knowing that he had a busy schedule ahead the following morning, to carry out the trial of Mansa, his notorious uncle, and co-conspirators, Ulam decided to go to sleep. 

Just as he was about to fall asleep he was rudely awakened by some loud cry of a man’s voice, saying “your highness! Your highness! Please wake up! Your highness, please wake up!”

Looking at the clock, he tiredly inquired, “Who is it? And what do you want?” The clock of the wall says 1:05 a.m. He almost regretted the free access that he allowed his subjects to have to him and the palace and was tempted to abolish it forthright.  King Ulam based his reason for such unfettered access to the following principles that he laid down:

“The throne is the people’s throne.

The crown is the people’s crown.

The palace is the people’s palace.

And I’m the people’s king.” 

He had made it abundantly clear to his guards and the palace staff that without the people, there would be no king, neither would there be any palace or palace workers.

“Sir,” the chief of the palace security explained, “there is a problem. The chief priest is here with a man who claims to be your grandfather’s eldest son; your uncle.” Whispering to King Ulam, the guard added, “I have worked in this palace for over twenty-five years but I have never heard of any other son of your grandfather, the former king, other than your father and Prince Mansa.”

Unable to fathom the whole episode, King Ulam sent the guard to bring in the chief priest. The priest walked in alone. “Who did you say you have brought in the middle of the night?” Ulam asked.

“Your highness, this man (pointing outside) came with several other men to my house and demanded that I escorted them to the palace, right away. I refused but after hearing the man’s story I felt compelled to bring him to see you right away.” The priest explained.

“You could have waited till tomorrow, couldn’t you?” Asked the king.

“Yes, we could but remember the trial begins in the early morning and who knows when it will end?” The priest asked rhetorically. “Trials of this magnitude sometimes proceed till the wee hours of the night.” The wise man explained.

In his usual nonchalant and respectful manner, King Ulam ordered the men to go and come back in the morning. He promised to delay the court hearing so as to lend them his ears in the morning.

  In the early morning of the first day of the trial, Chief Kay Kendo, the paramount chief, refusing to be slowed down by old age, was already at the courtyard by the time King Ulam arrived. Ulam had already laid down the frame-work of the judicial system of the kingdom. He made sure that all chronic and malfeasant ways of carrying out the judicial system by Mansa were revamped and replaced by what was not only fair but was seen to be the fairest ways of executing justice. That was why it took him almost six months after his inauguration before trials could commence. King Ulam was glad to find chief Kendo, who was not only his most trusted and reliable elder but a father-like figure to him, who always saw in Ulam the real character of his late friend, Prince Burr, Ulam’s father.

Without delay, the king beckoned to the chief to follow him to the inner office of the court house. After narrating the whole thing about the strange man and his team, who came with the chief priest the night before, chief Kendo advised Ulam to beef up his security without delay.

“We cannot afford to take any chances, with all these things going on. With change come strange things and that is why we have to take all the necessary precautions.” The chief cautioned. “This stranger, did you see him?”

“No, I have not caught a glimpse of him – it was in the teensy weensy hours of the night – too late.”

“Okay, now that things are seemingly more precarious than before, until we know the exact nature and veracity of the stranger’s claims, your guards must not let anyone into the palace, even with the chief priest; especially at night. The foreteller can come in even at night, but only if concretely necessary.” The chief advised. As if he had forgotten something else, he added, “have you informed General Amin and his team about all what is going on?” He asked. General Amin was one of the king’s trusted men. He was the chief of staff of the armed forces. He and his team played a major role in restoring the kingdom’s leadership to its rightful owners.

“Yes, I have. You know he is part of my security advisory team.” Answered the king. “In fact, chief, this stranger and his people are coming over this morning. They can arrive anytime now.”

“Did you invite them over?” Asked Chief Kendo.

“Yes I did. I wanted to talk to you before meeting them. All the security units are aware.”

“Okay, I will call all the other chiefs and we will listen to the man’s story. In fact we must postpone the court proceedings until we know what is going on. However, do you know the real implication of the man’s assertion?”

“No,” Ulam responded.

“If true, this could nullify your ascension to the throne,” warned Chief Kay Kendo.

“What?” Retorted Ulam. “This must be a plot, a ploy to destabilize our kingdom!” He exclaimed. He paused and pondered for a while. As if advised by his inner-self, he resumed with his usual cool and calm composure. “Okay, we will investigate and give the whole matter due consideration. If that is the case, for justice to prevail we shall comply by our royal rules and regulations, and the laws of our land.”

“Ulam,” the chief called.


“I have faith and one thing I can assure you: I am now an old man but I have never heard that your father has a brother aside from your uncle Mansa. But I know the rule and we will find out. I will…”

“Kong kong kong!” The chief was abruptly interrupted by a knock on the door. 

“Yes! Who is it?” Ulam asked.

“Sir, those men are here.” The chief of the royal guard reported.

“Let them wait in the court house. Send word to the prison guards not to bring out the prisoners today. Today’s proceedings have been cancelled until further notice. Also, send word to all my counselors that today’s court proceedings have been postponed.” The king ordered.

Few minutes later the king and the three chiefs who were present at the time, together with some senior members of the administration invited the stranger, who claimed to be his uncle and his men, to come and explain themselves. By this time, as per the advice of Chief Kendo, security was tightened in and around the courthouse and the palace. A few minutes later the strangers were ushered in by the police. They were led by a tall, sturdy and muscular man, who claimed to be the strange uncle of the king. However three of the six men actually reported for the appointed time with the king. Asked where the rest of the men were, one of the men responded: “they will join us soon.”

“We do not have time for any sort of hanky-panky, gentlemen.” Retorted the paramount chief. After what looked like an eternity without any trace of the rest of the men the king and his team decided to give the men a chance to come forward the following day. They must however remain in protected care of the security forces both for their own safety and to prevent them from running away.


The following day, however, none of the rest of the men came. Again, after what seemed like perpetuity the king and his men could not wait any longer. As they were about to rule the whole matter as a frivolous, none worthy episode, one of the guards rushed in, murmured a few words to the king who said aloud: “let him in. Let the man inside, right away.”

“My Grace, I am from Deka village.” The man said, as soon as he came in.

“Yes, I remember you. Are you not Kafo, the youth leader in Deka?”

“Yes sir, and I work for the village Alkalo too.”

“I remember that, Kafo. How are you? You will have to come to the palace with me. You are indeed an endearing young man I have always admired.”

“I would love to, Your Highness, but that is one desire of mine that the circumstance would not permit me to fulfill at this juncture.”

“Why would a noble man like you reject an honorable offer from His Eminence, the king?” Interjected chief Kendo.

“Can I have the singular privilege to speak to the king, in private, please?” Asked Kafo.

Before the king could say a word, Chief Kendo replied, “no, no, no. The way things are these days, at least one or two guards must be present.”

“It’s okay, chief.” The king said. “I know this guy so well. We did so many things together when I was in Deka Village and we trust one another very well.”

“If you say so.” Said the chief.

King Ulam and Kafo went inside the inner chambers and as soon as they were alone, Ulam asked what the matter was.

“Your honor, I am here to announce the sudden and mysterious death of our Alkalo, Pa Apai.”

“What!” the king exclaimed so loud that the chiefs, guards, and the counselors in the courtroom came running.

“Are you okay, King?” They inquired.

“I am fine, only that I’m shocked.”

“What did you do to the king? What did you say to the king?” They asked.

“He brought very sad news to me. My father-in-law has passed away in Deka village, in the neighboring kingdom, Boka Loho.” The king announced. “Ooooh! I have plans to see him soon so as to serve as the conduit between us and their kingdom. He was my wife’s father…”


Yanks Mamburay