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Articles on political and social issues in Cameroon, Africa and the world as seen by Njei Moses Timah > The Problematic Letter

21 Jun 2013


I was still in class six in primary school. An illiterate woman in a neighboring compound requested my assistance to write a letter for her. The letter was to be sent to her parents complaining of the beatings she has had from her husband. We sat in a discrete location as she dictated the confidential information for me to pen down.  Using the crude English I knew combined with my diplomatic naivety, I tried my best to reflect 100% of what the lady was verbally emptying from her stomach.

It goes without saying that she narrated her ordeal with some exaggerations. She told me and I wrote how the husband beat her and kicked her abdomen and her pregnancy was about to terminate as a result of that. Even though she was moving about, she told me to write that she cannot even walk and the pain of the beating was threatening her very survival.

When the letter got to the parents, and they read the contents, the ensuing firestorm from their end was obvious.

At the peak of the crisis, the accused husband wanted to know the person who wrote the letter for his wife. The lady would not disclose that information under any circumstance. The husband then went around the neighborhood and announced that he was giving the person who wrote that letter 3 days to own up or he will use is connections with some Hausa people who had black magic to eliminate that person.

I had some of the three sleepless nights of my childhood then as I decided not to own up. I knew I was likely to die anytime soon. Luckily for me the guy was just blowing hot air. Either he did not go through with his threat or he would have spent some money on a fake magician.

I learnt a very big lesson from that incident—a lesson which many a letter writer of yore would have learnt one way or another.

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Njei Moses Timah