Huka Kule is a 79-year-old humorous woman with the ability to elicit a good laugh in anyone. But beneath the veil of all her mirth lies a traumatizing tale. A tale rooted far down in springs of war.

During the ransacking Shifta Wars of the 1960s, the Kenyan military categorically launched a crusade against all cushites. Kule and her family fell victim to the brutality that ensued. The military descended upon Kule’s birthplace, Garba Tula and began a mass massacre. No child, man, woman or even livestock was spared. Anything that breathed and moved, qualified to be killed. Kule’s husband was at a watering point, innocently looking after his cattle when he was gunned down. The entire small town of Garba Tula echoed nothing but gunshots.

Impelled by a heartshaking fear caused by this act of deliberate violence, Kule grabbed her two children, one a two-year-old infant, the other a four-year-old. She joined the hundreds of frightened refugees who prayed to escape before their homes were turned into infernal concentration camps. Surrounded by death and carnage, a new life was beginning to take shape in her womb as she was three months pregnant.

The escapees unanimously agreed to travel at night praying the stars crumble and the moon dims its light so that they may roam stealthily and cross over this abyss of despair. The only time that truly mattered was the agonizing stretch between dusk and dawn.

During the day, they took cover in the forest and foraged for wild fruits and dried seeds. Some ate raw maize while others desperately resorted to chewing leaves. Deprived of nutrition, Kule struggled to breastfeed her infant. With her toddler, she played a trick of slathering her chewing stick with saliva and dripping it in his mouth giving him the false illusion of hydration.

Encounters with wild animals became a norm and with her trademark humor, Kule explains, “even elephants became our brothers. We were more afraid of the army than wild animals.”

A month later, Kule and her fellow refugees arrived in Isiolo. They cleared out one of the woods and founded a famed settlement now known in Isiolo as Ola Odha.