, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 2 – It is said that African men never show their tears because it’s seen as a sign of weakness.
But when recently freed Mule Yesse stepped out of the car at the family home in Nairobi’s Buruburu estate, his dad Edward Mule Yesse broke down and wailed.
The sight was in itself a paradox; both heartbreaking and ecstatic as the family celebrated the miraculous and safe return of their 32 year-old son captured by the Al Shabaab last January.
Mule and Fredrick Wainaina incredibly survived an unforgiving shower of bullets; unleashed by about 100 Al Shabaab militiamen killing six of their colleagues in the process.
“We were under a hail of bullets for like five hours and we were going to die but do you know that by the time those guys came to pick us up, not one bullet had touched us?” asked Mule as if he was still trying to come to terms with that reality.
“That fire fight was so intense that the walls would shake every time they were struck by the bullets and our ear pockets clogged to a point we couldn’t hear anything.”
At the height of the gunfire, Mule and Wainaina cried out to God; confessed their sins and prepared for their death just like the thief who was crucified next to Jesus.
“So I asked Wainaina to pray. We confessed our sins to each other and baptised ourselves. Wainaina became my pastor and I became his and we continued praying so that when death comes knocking, it would find us praying and we would end up in Heaven,” he recalled.
When the crazed gunfire ceased and a deathly silence stepped in its place, Mule and Wainaina were ordered to strip naked and lie on the ground (face down) to be executed.
But for some reason, the gang changed its mind and thus begun the long, unpredictable 18 month journey of captivity.
“Our days were basically dark days; days without colour. You know you wake up and you can’t see colour which is one of those things you take for granted. Like now I can see that curtain and I can see that it is pink,” he explained.
So I asked Wainaina to pray. We confessed our sins to each other and baptised ourselves. Wainaina became my pastor and I became his and we continued praying so that when death comes knocking, it would find us praying and we would end up in Heaven, he recalled.
‘Depressing’ would not even begin to explain that dark period even though the Al Shabaab militia eventually came to treat them with dignity.
It was a mentally torturous and dehumanising experience.
Their meals would be served on a metal plate; then the guards would step on the food and kick it towards them.
At one point Mule and Wainaina were bound with chains that had been padlocked at the wrists and extended to their legs for hours on end.
“Both hands had been padlocked to the legs and you know a human being is not supposed to be chained for hours; even a dog is not supposed to be chained like that for hours,” narrated Mule.
The two Kenyans would be allowed to leave their prison everyday between 7 and 8 am to address their calls of nature; nothing fancy.
A guard would knock on the door; that knock was a warning bell for Mule and Wainaina to put on their blindfolds.
“Then they would take us to the toilet for a short or a long call; no specialties like brushing our teeth or showering. We are lucky we still have our teeth but I think it’s because of the mint that they used to put in our rice at times,” he said lightly.
Both Mule and Wainaina suffered dysentery and bouts of malaria but the militiamen had doctors among them who treated them and ensured that they got the required medication.