His name is Kazungu. He’s an alcoholic. The last time he was sober was in 2004, when he made a deal with his sister. A deal not to drink for a week. Not even lick a drop off the bottle lid. The reward was 70,000 Rwandan Francs. That was 10,000 Rwandan Francs for each day he was sober. The deal was to collect the whole sum after the week. But for how long could he be sober?
He was trying really hard not to drink, counting off every day until he could get his money and get wasted, again. Before the deal, he was never sober for a very long time. Except maybe in the womb. But who knows? He probably was drunken there too. He’s been drinking for as long as he can remember. The deal was meant to be a reminder on why he had to quit hurting his wife and children. If he could make it to a week, then he could make it to 2 weeks, then a month, then 2 months and so on. Till when he was sober.

Then a week later, he walks in with his coat slung over his shoulder, staggered over to the table, smiled slightly and said “Mwiriwe”

Kazungu is a binge drinker who seems to have a death-wish. He drinks morning, noon and night. He prefers the feeling that he gets from drinking to the negative consequences that follow it. His drinking has been affecting his family…messing, spending, coming home drunk and verbally abusing them…Life with Kazungu is unsettling. Most of the times, they don’t know what kind of drama will be waiting for them when he comes home stumbling through the door. His affair with alcohol is unrelenting. He’s become an unbearable drunk. Every moment is an uphill struggle.

When he works, all his money is spent on booze. He doesn’t contribute anything.

“If you want to destroy your life with alcohol, fine. Go right ahead, but…” 

“It’s my money, I’ll spend it however I please” he cuts in before his wife finishes. 

His wife, Beatrice, who does part-time jobs, is the sole bread winner of the family. The couple have 8 children. 7 girls and 1 boy. One of their daughters gave birth. That’s 11 people in their household. Beatrice does everything financially, struggling to make ends meet. Someone is sick? It’s her problem. The children need shoes? Her problem. Fieldwork? Her problem. Food is over. Her problem. And when it gets worse, Kazungu sometimes steals items from the house that he sells to get money for booze. As his wife and kids eat ubugali na dodo, he be eating some brochettes with urwagwa at the local bar. 

Beatrice has probably thought of leaving Kazungu. Been probably told to follow her heart. “You deserve better”, “You can make it on your own”, “You should grow a pair and walk out for good”. But then her heart tells her to give him one last chance, again. Her heart tells her that he can’t make it without her, bla bla bla…following her heart is what has kept her in this marriage for so long.

His son passed PLE and joined high school. He did one term but then dropped out. Because of lack of school materials. Like many low-income women, his mother is preoccupied with their survival and is unable to save towards educating them. His mother couldn’t afford to buy him books which she thought of as luxuries, yet there are 11 stomachs to feed. His father couldn’t provide his school materials. He dropped out due to the unfortunate fact that his father is an alcoholic. They have had to watch the neglect in him. They watched him drown his son’s future in a bottle of urwagwa. There have been many times in his life when he wished he’d been born into a different family… 

Few months ago, Kazungu got mysteriously sick. First, his throat became sore. Then he had difficulty swallowing and his jaws couldn’t move. He could barely down a glass of urwagwa if anything. Couldn’t even swallow a drop. He was like a fly that’s about to get splattered on a windshield. He was dead. His drinking buddies couldn’t do shit for him. He was lost in his own private hell. 

Fortunately, he was cured. He was ordered to stop drinking. He’s been sober for 2 months now. Even though his family desperately wanted him to get sober, that doesn’t guarantee that all the bad will be forgotten. That can’t fix everything that he broke. All he can do is not drink. 

So, he won’t do it today.


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