Fireworks We Hope
Dec. 27th 2004
This entry relates to a disturbance near to our house. Although it happened, it should not be considered typical. Nothing in the incidence was related, directed, or connected to us or other ferenji in any way.
It started as a regular day, although it would be considered a holiday in UK. I had been struggling to keep the dog in the compound and brought him into the house. Around about eight o'clock I could hear some wailing from outside. It sounded like several womens' voices. I wasn't sure what it meant. Shortly after, Jon arrived back at the house and he said that he had heard the wailing but hadn't seen anything.

Shortly after this, two loud bangs sounded. We assumed that they were fireworks. This was holiday season after all, so nothing to worry about, right? The wailing continued and it became clear that something was happening. Tesfakiros our guard had become agitated and went out to look at the disturbance with his rifle. Jon and I went to the roof to have a look. We did not think that there would be any specific problem directed at us but just thought it best to stay out of it.

From on top of the roof I could see the house of the disturbance. A crowd was gathering. Through the gap between the corrugated iron roof and the solid stones yellow light flashed twice and the sounds of gunshots rang out once more. Another two shots were fired. This time red streaks chased into the air. Were these tracer shots left over from the army? Following the path backwards we could see Tesfakiros outside of the house trying to get some order. His gun now returning to an angle closer to horizontal having fired shots to get the attention of both people and presumably the police. Tesfakiros is a Kebelle guard - presumably he has a duty to get involved in such disturbances.

The line taxi that is normally parked in the house opposite was brought out and to the house. It was being brought as an ambulance. There was movement and wailing around the line taxi. And then it was gone, crunching over the stones on its way to the softer, dirt road.

By now the police had arrived. The policeman told everyone to go home, punctuating his message by banging on the metal cart outside of a nearby shop. This action sent women scurrying in all directions and the men left at a more measured pace.

Tesfakiros returned to the house with a cut to his hand and a short curved knife. It seemed to be similar to the knives carried by the men of the Afar region. I was careful first to check that I had no open cuts or anything on my hands and then went to help him with some alcohol and plasters once we had found them. Although the cut was not deep it was bleeding and clearly a bit painful.

Shortly after, the police called round to ask him some questions. Tesfakiros went to them at the very close police station, returning back to the compound about quarter of an hour later. People around were jittery but we all believed that Tesfakiros should go home after what ever had happened. Because of the heightened sense of danger we were sure that nothing was going to happen in our neighbourhood that night.

We tried to understand what had happened but the descriptions were confusing at best. Even with Jon's Mulu it was a case of Chinese whispers. What we had determined on the night was that someone had been shot and that there had been a stabbing. Tesfakiros had intervened and been able to get the knife. This, of course, gave him immediate brownie points in all of our books and has no doubt increased his standing in the neighbourhood somewhat. It also dispelled the idea that his rifle doesn't have any ammunition in it.

We knew the area that it had happened in and went out later to investigate and get some stuff from a local shop. The house was only about fifty metres from our house and we thought we might know the people. As we left the house, there was a man on all street corners. We were watched with every step we took. The shops were shut and unfortunately it looked like it was one of the houses where we new people. My heart sank to hear Hans say that it was Freyewni's mother's house. Freyewni is one of the three little girls close to our house that we play with. Freweyni is very bright and has the cheekiest of smiles. We returned to the house still under the gaze of the local men. This was more reassuring than threatening.

The next day we learnt more information. Someone in Freweyni's family had been stabbed by their separated husband. He had been away for some time and was not altogether in the mental department. He returned drunk with a knife and there was a struggle. Two people were taken to hospital. Freweyni herself was okay and showing her usual resilience rushed over to greet us all smiles the next day. We all made sure to give her an extra big hug.

I'm writing this diary entry some time after the event - over a month. Everything is now back to normal. We have not heard the horns and been invited to a funeral so we are assuming that things did not end tragically. Freweyni can still be found playing outside, sometimes with her little brother on her back. Cheeky smile in place, chewing the same piece of gum for days on end.

I think that this situation could easily have happened in the UK as well, although the chance of guns being involved would hopefully be less. But then so would the chance of having a nearby guard willing to get involved. This incidence was in no way a direct threat to us, it just happened nearby. None of us have trouble sleeping as a result. In fact, nor does Tesfakiros. Somehow, i'm not so critical if he wants to sleep as well.