By D. F. EFFIONG
Through the use of machetes, a lot of persons were killed in the Kagoro-Kafanchan crisis of recent. First, because of its portability and second, because only through the instrumentality of the machetes can anger be fully expressed. Also the more reason why the so-called pen-knife is also used by domestic abused victims or abusers. It is, what I will now term “the power of that weapon that wields anger;” it is also, what one of my friends who left the scene of the incident hours before I arrived, would describe as a shock for humanity!
We all know what or how a machete looks like. Back in the days, some of us in certain secondary schools in Nigeria would have this instrument or implement as an asset, not just for butchering animals, cutting down branches from trees, but also in cutting grass. Ours was a society that praised manual labour. Thus, began the story of carrying machetes around as teens. Surprisingly, no one would care to ask what you’d intend to do with it. The answer seemed obvious. By way of description and definition, “a machete is a broad blade used either as an implement like an axe, or in combat like a short sword. The equivalent term in English language is ‘matchet,’ while in the Caribbeans (Jamaica, Barbdos, Guyana, Greneda and Trinidad) the term ‘cutlass’ is used.
Because of its popularity and portability, the matchete is often the weapon of choice for uprisings. Many of the killings in the 1994 Rwandan genocide were performed with machetes. In 1762, the peasant guerillas led by Pepe Anthonio used the machete in defense of the city of Cuba against the Kingdom of Great Britain. In Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart,” the use of machete as a side arm and tool for many ethnic groups in West Africa met its narrative (Cf. Wikipedia.com for more). Despite the cultural variations in the make of this implement, there is a crippling realization on my part, to echo the intimacy in killing with a machete.
There is a volcanic and eruptive imbalance that is exhumed by the human person when he or she kills another by this weapon. Chris Abani, in one of his Ted talks, narrated the fear he saw in the eyes of a goat. A fear that was borne out of innocence in killing with a machete rather than courage. That is why in the African cultural parlance, children are greatly discouraged to kill any animal with a machete. “You must be a man first!” The Kafanchan-Kagoro crisis has revealed on thing however; it is not divisions in the religions (for both Christians and Muslims waited to kill each other) that is to be blamed solely. Killing by machete reveals the anger in, of, and about a dysfunctional system. It reveals the broken intimacy of both parties. It reveals the crack in the lens of our humanness and most importantly, machete killings, reveals a cry for a pragmatic help and re-orientation! Let us therefore look beyond the anger, fear and greed that separates us to those things that bind us. It’s the only way we’ll see the other as human and worthy of respect and dignity.