List of characters:
Okonkwo: Orphan, 28, very outgoing and reasonable. Brother to Samora.
Samora: Orphan, 19, very erratic and emotional. He is also very patriotic. Brother to Okonkwo.
As the village of Iboki becomes the centre of the battle for power between rebels and government agents, the people are seeking for refuge and an escape. Okonkwo is orphaned and has always wanted to leave the village, but his younger brother has other hidden plans.
Setting: A one-room shack, made of corroding metal sheets. Inside there are two single beds, a paraffin stove, a small radio and a torn mat to cover the floor. There is also no electricity and a bunch of clothes lie on top of a water bucket. Okonkwo’s bed is near the door and there are no windows in this burrow.
Samora: So, you are going through with this?
Okonkwo: (Putting a few rags into a small bag) There’s no other way.
Samora: (He hesitates) Okonkwo…
Okonkwo: What? Stop calling my name and hurry up.
Samora: (Sternly) Okonkwo! (Okonkwo turns) I’ve been thinking… I’m not leaving.
Okonkwo: Don’t start.
Samora: I’m staying. (He falls back in his bed).
Okonkwo: There’s no way that I’m leaving you here. Get up!
Samora: There’s no way that I’m changing my mind. I’m not leaving!
Okonkwo: This is not the time for games. You know we don’t have a lot of time.
Samora: I have plenty of time.
Okonkwo: Chukwu will be here in an hour, and when he gets here, I swear I’m leaving.
Samora: Well, what are you waiting for then? Go! (Okonkwo screws up his face)… Stay.
Okonkwo: You know I can’t do that.
Samora: And I can’t go. Just know that once you leave through that door, you are no longer my brother.
Okonkwo: I know you don’t mean that.
Samora: But it’s true.
Okonkwo: Then come with me.
Samora: No! I belong here.
Okonkwo: You don’t belong here. Nobody does… (He takes a deep breath) Do you think I want to watch you wither away in this damn place? I can’t. I’m your big brother, damn it! I have to do something.
Samora: But you won’t come back.
Okonkwo: Don’t say that. You’re the only family I have left. I won’t abandon you.
Samora: And yet you are abandoning me.
Okonkwo: Do you think this is easy for me? I’m doing this for us.
Samora: No, you’re doing this for you! You know this is just for you. You’re so damn selfish.
Okonkwo: Don’t use that tone with me. I’m your big brother. I want you to come with me and you refuse. Aren’t you being selfish?
Samora: And what about your country, Okonkwo? Your people? Your future?
Okonkwo: That’s exactly why I have to do this. For our future.
Samora: But kids are dying every day. By the time that future comes, there will be nobody left.
Okonkwo: Do you think I want to be forced into a militia?
Okonkwo: Volunteer. Drafted. Abducted. What’s the difference?
Samora: You are a coward.
Okonkwo: You are foolish. You are blind and foolish.
Samora: Better to be a blind fool than an outright traitor.
Okonkwo: (He stands up and grabs Samora roughly by the collar.) Don’t you dare. You don’t know what it costs.
Samora: You are a selfish, treacherous coward.
Okonkwo: (He continues to hold Samora by the collar.) I’ll bust you up. (He pushes him against the wall.) I’m warning you.
Samora: Why don’t you? (Onkonkwo hesitates.) Chukwu will be here in 45 minutes.
Okonkwo: Maybe you are right. (He stares at his palms.) Maybe I am a coward. But I can’t die in vain like everyone else. (We hear the sounds of tanks passing.)
Samora: (He smiles.) It’s starting.
Okonkwo: Come with me, please. I beg you.
Samora: I’ll never leave my people. My country. This is where I will die.
Okonkwo: This is not a game, Samora. These people are not your family. You don’t owe them anything.
Samora: Family would never turn their back on each other.
Okonkwo: This wretched place stole my family. Your family. Perhaps you were too young to remember. But I do. The way they screamed, the rattle of the automatic weapon and then the still silence. If Dad had not hidden us, I shudder to think what would have happened. And now you. How would you expect me to stay here?
Samora: Rather die for what you believe in than live a lie.
Okonkwo: Have you lost your mind? This is no place for a future. (Sirens go off outside.)
Samora: What is a future, Okonkwo? Tell me. There is no future. There is only the present. We have to make our own future.
Okonkwo: I’m not interested in your philosophy of life, I just want you to come with me.
Samora: So have you decided where you will be going?
Okonkwo: South Africa. We are going to South Africa.
Samora: Do you have the slightest idea what those South Africans will do to you? I listen to the radio and it’s actually much worse down there than here.
Okonkwo: But there are many opportunities there. We’ll have a chance.
Samora: There are xenophobic scourges aimed directly at fellow Africans. They say we stink, steal and cheat. They call us unspeakable names. I think it’s better to die here, with honor and dignity.
Okonkwo: Even if you make it through tomorrow and the following week, you won’t get the chance to grow up here. There is only famine and death. I have buried my parents, my friends and my peers. I’m not burying my little brother.
Samora: I’m not a baby anymore. I can defend myself now.
Okonkwo: What will you eat?
Samora: There’s food aid in the community center. I saw it. It’s stacked up inside the gymnasium.
Okonkwo: (With sarcasm in his voice.) How long can you survive on a cup of rice a day?
Samora: (He moves his bed aside, pulls out an AK47 and cocks it.) This is my voice now. I’ll take what I want.
Okonkwo: Where the hell did you get that?
Samora: Why do you care?
Okonkwo: You know, Samora, I should be beating the hell out of you, right now.
Samora: I don’t care. This is my retribution. (Sirens go off again and we hear a commotion outside.)
Okonkwo: Mom and Dad are turning in their graves right now. How dare you bring that inside their house?
Samora: Don’t act like a saint. You also have one. I’ve seen it.
Samora: That’s right. The last night you came here opening doors with your cranium and the stench of alcohol was overflowing from your pores. Even though the candle was not lit, I saw you. You pulled it out and placed the barrel inside your mouth. I wanted to jump up and grab that gun from your hands but I couldn’t. The shock of it all had me frozen. How could you, Okonkwo?
Okonkwo: (Speaking softly.) I didn’t want you to see that.
Samora: I thought you were stronger than that, Okonkwo. Why did you do it? Were you still doing it to save me? Did you think of me in that moment? It would be better if you tried killing yourself at the border of your beloved South Africa. Not here. I don’t like cleaning after you.
Okonkwo: I thought you were asleep.
Samora: (He snaps.) Well, I was not. Why did you do it? You wanted to leave me, just like you’re doing now. (Voice shivering.) Fine. Go!
Okonkwo: Curse this place. Curse the lout cowards whose bellies crawl in this place. (There is a moment of silence.) You know, Samora, from a young age you displayed good potential. Greater than any boy in the village. But your only flaw is that you’re too much of a hot-head, like your big brother.
Samora: I’ve never had a childhood, Okonkwo. This is not the time to start.
Okonkwo: Oh Samora. You’re too young for the burdens you carry. There are greater horizons out there in the world… (Okonkwo smiles.) Remember how much you used to love school? Come with me. There are lots of good schools where we’ll be going. Come with me.
Samora: I would love to but it’s too late now. This is all I know. It is all we know.
Okonkwo: That’s where you are wrong. You are barely a young man, there is still much to learn. You have your whole life ahead of you.
Samora: Don’t you see that we have to change this place? We, the youth, are the frontiers of the future. This is our country to inherit. If we abandon it now, who will defend it?
Okonkwo: You can be foolish sometimes. Don’t you see that that world is gone? Now there’s peace and prosperity in other parts of Africa but only cannibalism and conflict here. Your leaders have become hounds, feeding off your blood and labor. They rely on your brilliant young minds and lives. Why not starve them?
Samora: Your departure does not aid the country, Okonkwo, but actually takes from it. And besides, you are always telling me to grow up. Well, this is me taking your advice, big brother.
Okonkwo: This is immature. We don’t have much time. Tomorrow, this village will be a battleground for government soldiers and rebels. This village will be turned into a graveyard. You know how many villages they have destroyed, killing and burning everything in their path. Right down to the dogs. Come with me while you still can.
Samora: There is shelter in the community center. Besides, we who call ourselves men must stay and defend our homes.
(A car hoots outside their shack.)
Okonkwo: That’s Chukwu. We have to go now. Come on.
Samora: I’m sorry, brother, but I cannot go with you.
Okonkwo: (Grabbing his hands.) You are my responsibility and I say we are going.
Samora: (Shaking him off.) No, Okonkwo! My whole life, I have followed you sheepishly. Doing whatever you told me to do and trying to be a good little brother. But not anymore. Now I must go my own way. I need to do this by myself.
(There is a hard knock at the door.)
Okonkwo: (Shouting in the direction of the door.) I’ll be out in a second! (To Samora.) So this is it huh, baby brother?
Samora: This is my parents’ home. And it’s my home too. This is where I choose to die.
Okonkwo: As much as that pains me, I think I understand. Good luck, Samora.
Samora: No, Okonkwo. Good luck to you.
They hug each other tightly and stare at each other for a while. Okonkwo stands for a few moments at the door, looking at his brother’s smile for the last time, then he takes his small bag of possessions and walks out. They part without saying goodbye.
Tell us: What would you have done in the situation?