Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 12

This entry is part 12 of 14 in the series Enemy Circles - Season One

Last Updated on September 29, 2019 by Memorila

Jomo, a young nomadic man was betrothed to a fellow clan’s girl, Bonajo, and they were to be married during the merriment of reuniting at the designated reunion camp in mountains of central Africa. Unfortunately, a huge war campaign was to prevent that simple thing from happening until after more than three years.


Today could be one of the remaining last three at the camp. Bonajo was anxious to move forward towards her future – her marriage. The last seven days had been very hectic; carrying merchandise from the camp – which was several kilometres away from the different Djenne markets where they sell and retraced their tracks back to the camp. Some kind of decision was made by the clan elders; everyone was to dispose of his merchandise within those three days and the camp moves on. The decision was as the result of the confirmation of the imminent war. Bonajo had mixed feelings of the fear of the war and the anxiety of moving to her marriage soon. She would want nothing in the world but to vacate the camp.

She worked hard, helping her mother with their merchandize, that she rarely saw Marra. All school sessions were closed and some families had already started packing – ready to leave. Bonajo didn’t see Marra today at the market, and since there weren’t much to do at home she decided to trace her friend down at her compound.

Enemy Circles on Memorila
Enemy Circles on Memorila

She was surprised to be greeted with uproar outside the compound. There were women hysterically calling to their smaller children and the men not calm too, speaking to one another rapidly. Bonajo’s mother came out.

“What is happening?”

“I don’t know.” Bonajo heart was beating doubly. She knew whatever it was it must be about the war.

“Have you seen your father?” Bonajo’s mom was shouting too.

“No!” Then she saw Dije, Marra’s mother. “Where is Marra, Inna Dije?” Bonajo asked the panicked woman.

Dije stopped in front of Bonajo’s mother.

“Why are you not preparing to leave?” She asked without answering Bonajo.

“Why? I thought we have two more days.” Bonajo’s mother answered perplexed.

“We don’t. There is fight as I am talking to you at Gao. And our cows were taken this morning by the emperor’s soldiers.” Dije ended in hysteria.

“Ya Salam!” Bonajo’s mother put her palms flat on her chest.

“Where is Marra?” Bonajo asked again.

Dije noticed the girl for the first time. “She is very ill.” She said almost tearfully. “She is at home.” Bonajo ran to Marra’s compound without waiting to hear the rest.



Bonajo braked so hard she almost toppled and sprawled on the ground. At the entrance of Marra’s compound stood Marra’s father – Baffa and two men. One of the two was Mallam Iro and the other was Mallam Gojjo –Jomo’s father. She wanted to make a u-turn and run in another direction but Baffa already saw her.

“Bonajo, do you know that your friend have been sick since yesterday?”

Bonajo kneeled and greeted the elders – shyness threatening to make her knees buckle.

Mallam Gojjo looked at Bonajo and smiled in spite of the gravity of the situation. “My daughter, how is your father?”

Bonajo stammered and ended up saying nothing.

Baffa saved her. “Go inside, your friend is very ill.” Bonajo waited no more, she ran inside the compound.

Marra was very ill indeed. “Oh my God, what happened to you?”

Marra’s whole body was covered and she sweating profusely. “I heard you talking to Jomo’s father.” She said wryly.

Bonajo felt Marra’s furnace of temples. “Of course you did, except I was not talking to him or anybody.”

“Then I must be getting slow at eavesdropping.” Marra said. “What did you say, because I couldn’t hear your response?”

“It is because there wasn’t any.” Bonajo almost laughed. “If I knew he was here I wouldn’t have come. Girl, I was embarrassed beyond salvation.”

Marra laughed a weakly. “I wish I was there to see how you reacted.”

“It was nothing beyond foolishness.” Bonajo laughed too. Then she remembered.

“Eh hem, what is happening? The whole camp is in a chaos, are we not leaving in three or two days, what is happening. And where have you been all this while? OK I remember you have been sick.”

“When did you become a prattle, chattering little girl?”

Bonajo only smiled. “Staying with a potash porter, as they say, makes one have a white head.”

“You are the potash porter.” Marra tried to rise up but abandoned her efforts. “It is the war. I heard Baffa discussing with the men that more than five thousand of the clan’s cattle were confiscated this morning; some of the young men were arrested too, for trying to stop the empire guards from taking the cattle. I really don’t know everything, they decided about the unfortunate event, but I know that they are sending the women and children with a few men forward, as the men wait to claim the cattle and the young boys from the government.”

Bonajo listened sadly. “Why is this happening? So we are leaving today, then?”

Before Marra answered, Baffa called Bonajo from outside. When she came out there was only Mallam Gojjo. She wanted to make a u-turn.

“Bonajo, listen to me very well.”

She kneeled down, her head hid inside her chest.

“You are a good girl, I am happy to have you as a daughter-in-law and I am also happy we meet haphazardly today. I am sure you must have heard about what is going on.” He stopped to catch his breath. “It may be a long time until we meet again. I don’t know where my son is. I don’t know if we will ever see each other again.” His voice broke.

Bonajo’s sadness only multiplied.

“Take this.” Mallam Gojjo said.

When she rose up her head, her father-in-law extended a talisman – beautifully decorated in a leather casing. “Give it to him if you two met before we do.”

Bonajo put two hands and took the leather artefact; feeling like it sealed her marriage with Jomo forever, and consciously vowed to hand it over to its rightful owner.


The Maghreb army looked smaller than reported by the scouts, but Hamani was not concerned about that. He was thinking about the strange looking stick they were holding. The army arrived at dawn and soon after both warring sides finished saying the dawn prayer, a formation was made.

Jomo too was curious about the stick – the magical weapon. That was it – the moment of truth. In another half an hour they would be the first to know if the weapon did what the rumours claimed it was capable of doing. Other than that dread, the Maghreb doesn’t look formidable at all. There were a few armed cavalries and fewer horses and in total they looked cumbersome in their garb of djallabas.

More than ten thousand men were on the Songhai side. There were more than six hundred camels and more than five thousand horses. The trainees that came from Takedda camps made up to seventy percent of the Songhai army; the Tuareg mercenaries accounted the remaining thirty percent.

Jomo could see that the Maghreb army needed Allah’s intervention, otherwise as predicted they were in for a huge distress. He stood by Hamani’s side, Mandano and Shagaro were somewhere at the frontline. Everyone waited for Hamani’s order and soon enough he ordered to attack.

The front tier of the Maghreb army kneeled and positioned, pointing the stick in the Songhai’s army charging direction. Jomo’s frenzied mind disregarded all rumours concerning the magical weapon which turned out to be a ridiculous stick and zeroed his mind with intent of reaching just one place in the whole universe – the Maghreb army. He wasn’t prepared for the sound the small stick came to make.

It was like a thunder with lighting in the middle of the night. He saw people falling from their mounts – camel and horses and feet. The sound sent the animals into panic; he had a hard time controlling his black stallion. At the back of his mind he decided the weapon was not as formidable as it was claimed and charged further with fervour.

Soon enough Songhai army clashed with the Maghreb army, and the dusty terrain rose up to blanket the sun in the clashing zone. In spite of the horror the weapon was unleashing, the Songhai army pushed on to cover the separating distance between them and the Moorish army. The firearm stopped erupting as the Songhai army clashed with the moors; one could only hear the sounds of steels and the screams of death.

Jomo saw neither Hamani nor any of his friends. The magical weapon turned useless as he lynched the moors like they were nothing but annoying rodents to get rid of. He concentrated in stopping the enemy by annihilating as many as he could and bothered not to seek what his friends were doing. He knew the story would be the same with them.

Maghreb army were terrorized beyond their expectations, and were trying hard to flee the massacre scene. Hamani ordered to let no one live, and that was what his soldiers were trying to carry out.

By the time the dust was beginning to settle down, around noon, there was no Maghreb soldier with a breath left. They kept no prisoners, all were killed and congratulations of victory went round.

The first thing Jomo did after the battle was over and victory on their side was ascertained was look for his friends. He found them celebrating with the others, like it was planned ahead before this time.

“That was awesome!” Mandano patted Jomo’s back. “Have you seen how I opened the stomachs of those invading bastards?”

“No I haven’t, I swear.” Jomo left Mandano with his excitation and went about looking for Hamani.

He found him and with his help they went to work. They counted and recorded fifteen thousand five hundred and twenty dead Maghreb soldiers, thirteen of those magical weapons that lay useless and not so magical, and a few hundred lances and bows and arrows.

“Their number is smaller than expected”. Hamani told Jomo.

“I think the same.”

Hamani was beginning to have a theory that explained that. “We have to dispatch a messenger immediately and relay the conditions here as well as our observation to the capital.” In less than an hour a fast rider was dispatched with the brief summary of what happened with the observation.


Judar Pasha stood, feet wide astride as he looked curiously at the foggy wide river with its lush farms at the bank. It was a beautiful site that gives cover to his approaching army and the water was everything his desiccated army needed after the desert voyage. They met with no resistance on the way and he was this close to the capital. This town is the first through the route he took after deflecting from the expected Taghaza route.

If he hit Gao and surprised them the whole mission would not take even as long as he thought. He tried to look beyond the river but could not see much due to the fog and the darkness of the evening. This will do for now, he thought.

His plans of leaving a part of his army at Taghaza would without doubt work. He knew that Songhai was expecting them to begin taking Taghaza as an important part of their campaign; they would have the bulk of their resistance planted there. They weren’t wrong about Taghaza being important, but that would be after the empire was brought down to her knees.

His scouts located the Tessalit camp and he knew what the empire was doing. He waited until it was reported to him the Songhai escort left to narrate of their trajectory to Taghaza camp before he overnight took a detour and headed for Goa from western route that would deliver him at the lip of the famous River Niger. If nobody was there to meet them, it could well mean that they didn’t know about this plan.

The cumbersome body of his armada had finally made it. Now the only thing standing between him and victory was the river and he intended to cross it tomorrow and march right in to the capital.


Bonajo clutched her luggage and helped Marra, who was beginning to feel better, with her own luggage as the file among the women folks of the clan hurried to leave while the men remained.

“Now, how do you find him? You don’t even know him.” Marra whispered inside Bonajo’s ears. She heard what ensued between Bonajo and Malla Gojjo, and was moved by the gesture. “I pity the old man”

“I don’t know. But I will find him.” Bonajo said, solemnly.

“Yes, you will.” Marra’s body ached for the hundredth time. “Do you know that we are following through Tondibi and tracing our way back to Futa Djallo?”

Banajo was surprised. “Why? I thought we are going to the reunion camp.”

“Don’t be silly; with the war already here we don’t stand a chance traversing across the empire.”

So we are going back? Bonajo was disappointed.

All the women in their customary wrappers and scanty veils carried one package or the other. Mallam Iro with two other men were assigned to accompany the women back to Futa, where it was agreed they would be safer. However, there was a great deal of debate among the elders as to the appropriate route they needed to take to flee the empire in time. It was agreed that the border guards would have to be avoided at all costs, not knowing if they would start taking women by force too. It was agreed that the river would be the safest and fastest means of reaching the destination, so they settled for Tondibi.


The next morning came with clear air; the fog was gone but revealed a surprising site to Judar Pasha – across the water was Songhai army in the number that sent shiver down his Portuguese’s bones. It was a sight one could only hope to come across in Greek mythologies; thousands upon thousands of black men that achieved turning the sight into an endless ocean of men and animals.

He used his telescope, but only saw that the number was larger than the view with naked eye had to offer. He felt his innings tightened. How did they organize in such a short time?

Across the river General Hamma was going through the last details with his men.

“We will wait for them to cross the river so that we will have that to our advantage, as we corner them between us and the river. The cattle will take care of the weapon they are carrying. As we heard from the Taghaza skirmish it didn’t work at a close range or something like that.”

“What if they refused to cross?” Kungeri asked.

Hamma smiled. “We are at home; we have food and are free to roam, so we can wait another year. If they refused to cross they will starve and we will cross and finish them anyway. They brought themselves to our doors; they have no choice but to knock.”

The rest nodded in agreement.


Askia Ishaq was glad with news of victory at the Taghaza mines. Though he would rather the whole war was done with there and then as was expected, but he knew that not everything happened as planned. He was also happy, though, that the weapon that dreaded them for long was not extraordinary as was largely rumoured.

“Father, I told you we can still win.” Karima said watching her father, as he brought one strange stuff after another. “And what are those?”

“He raised a sword with golden scabbard. These belong to the first Malian kings, our ancestors.” He said with reverence.

“You are not going to take it to the war, because I don’t think it is sharp enough to kill.” Karima said

“How do you know?”

“Your Highness they are waiting.” A palace servant said from behind the door.

Askia returned the sword inside a chest containing many of its kind, but with different histories.

“I have to go and meet them. When I return we will have a talk about your ancestors as we celebrate our victory.” He smiled. “For now let me see this business done.”

“May Allah protect you, father.” Karima said tearfully.

He met with the governors of Djenne, Timbuktu and other cities near Gao a few hours ago and discussed with them the deception of the Maghreb army as it was finally unravelled by Hamma. That the army split, dropped the smaller portion at Taghaza while the main body advanced to the city. The cantonments in Djenne, Timbuktu and Gao were immediately mobilized to Tondibi as scouts traced Pasha’s army. More soldiers from Takedda camp arrived also, as was expected, after Pasha’s advance was located, since they were in the Sahara. He told them that he will himself come out and fight to boost the morale of his soldiers, and he commanded the governors to do the same. Now they are ready and waiting for him to head to the warfront.

“Amin dear! All thanks to Allah for making it easy for us, but let’s not raise our hopes high. A victory in war is only decided at the end of the war.” The emperor put on his leather armour atop his babban riga.

Karima laughed.

“Why are you laughing?” Askia asked, amazed at the girl’s cheerfulness at this point.

“After this war is over you have to invent some fighting clothes less awkward than these.” She laughed again.

“What do you mean awkward?” Askia looked at his war suite and saw nothing wrong with it. “Don’t you know the greatest of the Malian kings fought wars dressed like this?”

Karima continued laughing and it delighted Askia to see his daughter that was fast growing into a woman happy. “After the war, I will soon have another war with a nice young man.”

She stopped laughing. “Who would that be? If he is nice why do you have to fight him?” Karima asked curiously.

“It is that person that would soon come to take you away as his wife.”

Karima was embarrassed. “I won’t leave you.” She said.

“We will see.” He said as he picked his sheathed sword and headed outside.

Outside, his horse was ready and so were the governors and their immediate guards. The Mandinka guards, a disciplined soldier tribe, whose lean tall posture gave them agility and endurance, made a perfect formation, all ready and waiting to escort and protect the emperor at all costs. He kissed Karima’s forehead and advanced to the waiting procession that headed to Tondibi – where the battle was to be fought.

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