A Moonless Starless Sky is a collection of stories about the lives of individuals fight fighting against human brutality, it’s a collection of stories about resistance to extremism. This book moves through four African countries; Uganda, Mauritania, Nigeria and Somalia. The stories are beautiful, inspiring and eye-opening, it gives an insight on the issue of extremism in Africa and what really goes on behind the scenes. The book is divided into two parts, half of each story in part one, and the other half in part two, that makes up eight chapters, cause there are four stories.
Alexis Okeowo looks into relevant conflicts in the four African countries through the stories of people who have been victims of those conflicts and people who have also aided the fight against different forms of terrorism. In Uganda, Eunice, a fifteen year old girl, was abducted by Joseph Kony’s Lord Resistance Army, a rebel group. She was captured with other girls from a boarding school, & they were taken to the bush, in the bush, she was given to Bosco; a nineteen year old fighter in the rebel group, as his bush wife. on their first night together Bosco rapes Eunice when she refuses to have sex with him. Inspite of that and all what they go through in the bush, they make a life together and have children. Alexis Okeowo, through the story of Eunice and Bosco, makes us understand why abducted girls return to their captors. Many of the captors were captives themselves. Some, like Bosco help their wives escape, and Eunice tries to explain that there is a shared understanding between herself and Bosco: “I couldn’t imagine being with someone who had not faced the same conditions in the bush.” Eunice and Bosco faced stigmatization after their escape from the bush, their resistance wasn’t the “pick up your machetes” kind of resistance, they resisted by enduring.
In Mauritania, Okeowo gives and account of a man called Biram. Biram’s story was one of utter fearlessness and guts. Biram an advocate for the abolition of slavery, who decides to publicly burn several Islamic texts that justify slavery, an action that could have cost him his life. He did that with the hope of starting a revolt against slave owners in Mauritania. He also founded the IRA Initiative for the Resurgence of the Abolitionist Movement. Biram became the enemy of the government, was taunted by the police because of his activism. Biram risked everything he had to push his anti-slavery movement, he is referred to as the Mauritanian Nelson Mandela . Okeowo also spends time with a woman Biram helped rescue from slave owners. Her name is Haby, she was one on the millions of people born into slavery in Mauritania. When she finally had the opportunity to escape, she was adamant about leaving her owners because slavery was all had known her whole life. Through Haby’s story I understood how slave owners were able to enslave people without any chains cause the chains are in the minds of the slaves.
In Nigeria, she writes of the insurgency in Borno state, she profiles the Rebecca Ishaku, one of the hundreds of school girls abducted from a boarding school in Chibok, and a man popularly known as Elder, who fights the insurgents with the help of his “army”. She gives an account of Rebecca’s risky escape from the terrorists. Elder actively fought the insurgents, refused to sit with his arms folded while Boko Haram constantly attacked his community. Elder became a unit commander for the Civilian Joint Task Force, a volunteer group who fought against Boko Haram, and they hardly ever got any assistance from the government.
In Somalia, she meets with a teenage basketballer named Aisha. Aisha received her first death threat when she was thirteen, all because she was female and played basketball.
“The boys can play football on the streets, but it doesn’t look good to a community if girls are playing sports outside.”
This is the reality in Somalia, girls receive death threats daily cause playing basketball is a ‘crime’ or seen as immodest. Aisha receives daily death threats and survived two attempted abductions and yet still goes to the game, with her track pants under her jilbab. “It was both an ordinary and rare kind of bravery,” Okeowo writes, “the kind that they didn’t think about every day because they were just trying to live their lives, but that was incredible given the danger they faced.”
The accounts are both upsetting and inspiring, it made me understand that, when trying to fight against the system, sacrifices have to be made, be it your peace, resources, money, lives of loved ones or even your own life, many of the people endured death threats, survived escapes, and whole lot. What I liked most about this book was the way the author gave a background history on each character exploring their hopes and fears, making me see life from their own point of view. It kind of gave me a background feel of what really goes on in other parts of Africa, especially in Nigeria, the media never tells you what goes on behind the scenes, but this book did.
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If you liked A Moonless, Starless Sky, try these:
- I Was Told to Come Alone by Souad Mekhennet
- The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed
- The Wizard of the Nile bu Matthew Green
- Aboke Girls by Els De Temmerman
- Boko Haram by Virginia Comolli
- Getting Somalia Wrong? by Mary Harper