Wrapped around Mary Akiyara Mero’s left wrist is a string tied to a small bottle containing sugar. She periodically pours this sugar on her palm and licks it to neutralise the acrid taste left in her mouth by the green ghastly drug she calmly chews. As she enjoys her evening khat session, Mary takes a trip down memory lane recalling the first time familiarizing herself with this stimulant. Twenty years ago, an intertribal war had erupted in Isiolo. Steered by a desire to obliterate each other over an insatiable avarice for land, the cushitic and nilotic settlers of Isiolo took up arms against each other.
With everyone keen on self preservation, Mary noticed an inclination among her neighbors. They all had bundles of green leaves which they chewed to stay awake and alert. This heightened sensitivity gave them the ability to seek refuge in the forest and flee from the advancement of those with unquenchable territorial ambition.
In 2001, the bloodshed ended but the rapine monopolistic instinct that caused the war in the first place was not resolved. In 2012, the frail fortress of peace that stood for 11 years capitulated to the unabated loathing the tribes had for each other. Carnage descended upon Isiolo once again, Mary and her family made themselves scarce. The only one she left behind was her husband, a former police officer with functionally impoverished legs courtesy of taming border wars between the Turkana and South Sudanese communities during the Moi Era.
As war performed its devastating role, Mary had locked her husband in their house and fled to the outskirts of their settlement. Under the cover of the dark nights, she sneaked in, brought her husband food and offered the soothing beacon of intimacy and serenity specific only among loving spouses. As dawn ruptured through the sky, Mary bid her beloved farewell and went back into exile. A month later, under government intervention, the war ended and Mary resettled back home.
This year, her husband perished of tuberculosis and with him, the pension they got from the state vanished. She spends the majority of her evenings escaping life’s tedious reality by getting high on khat provided by her youthful neighbors.