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Our Girlfriend

by Weirial Baluang

Sir General Reverend Evangelist Honourable National Minister Boss Comrade Dr. Oliver of South Sudan loved nothing more in this world than his ten titles and beautiful women. He was illiterate but pretended to be highly educated. He could speak and understand both English and Arabic, being the official languages of South Sudan, but constantly mispronounced words with ‘th’ and ‘p,’ which came out as ‘sink’ for ‘think,’ and ‘fen’ for ‘pen’. He couldn’t read the details of a bank statement or use a computer. Once he pretended to read a newspaper while holding it upside down. 

He saved people’s phone numbers using symbols and stickers in his phone and named them depending on where he met them: the cemetery, bar, church, river, public toilet, etc. The President’s number was saved with the symbol of a cowboy hat. When greeting him, Sir General Reverend Evangelist Honourable National Minister Boss Comrade Dr. Oliver knelt down and sometimes kissed his feet to show his loyalty like a worshipper greeting a priest. But when he returned to his ministry he used his right hand to greet the VIPs and his left hand to greet his subordinates.           

It was the middle of winter when Minister Oliver was appointed by presidential decree. Our Minister with ten titles stood between his beautiful wife and his children in front of hundreds of people who came to celebrate his appointment, most of whom were either from his county or state. His speeches could not be heard properly because of the applauses of his friends and family members. Friends and relatives who hadn’t seen each other for a long time embraced. Village men donated bulls and goats for the celebration, some out of happiness for the national appearance of their fellow villager, some hoping to be rewarded by the minister later on.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” announced the MC, “it is now time to welcome the central figure of the day, the man who does important jobs for the sake of his people, who is none other than Hon. Dr. Oliver, Minister of…,”

Everyone stood up, applauding, to welcome the minister, but when the minister’s smiling face changed to anger and he did not stand up to go to the stage, silence befell them. One of the minister’s colleagues bent down next to him then quickly returned to the MC.

“On behalf of the organising committee,” said the MC, “I would like to apologise for the omission of some of the minister’s titles. Our minister Sir General Reverend Evangelist Honourable National Minister Boss Comrade Dr. Oliver will now come to address us.” 

“Thank you very much,” the minister said, finally standing up and smiling, when all his titles were mentioned. “For those who may not know me, my name is Sir General Reverend Evangelist Honourable National Minister Boss Comrade Dr. Oliver. Your dear leader! This ministerial post is not given to me but to you! In this post I will build hospitals and schools! Let us all support our government and our president!”

The crowd applauded loudly, and people broke out into happy tribal songs and were returned to the good days when their clan never turned its back on anyone. As they celebrated the minister’s promises, his eyes fell on a beautiful young girl standing in the crowd and he felt the breath disappear from his lungs. The young woman was very tall and dark with the softest skin. Her large dark eyes crinkled at the corners and shone as bright as the lights of Juba city. Her prominent cheek bones and long, thin nose with its long bridge dividing her two large eyes almost drove him mad. The minister found it difficult to hide his feelings and sneaked glances at her every now and then, and eventually he gathered the courage to whisper something into the ear of his bodyguard. The guard saluted and immediately disappeared. 

The minister watched out of the corner of his eye as the bodyguard appeared next to the girl and talked to her. She looked up at the minister and back at the guard, and eventually moved towards where the minister was standing.

“…so that our children,” the minister said, then he glanced down at his phone. “Okay, let us leave this topic for a while because I have just received a message from the President wanting me for a certain national business.”

The MC took over and the celebration continued as the minister stepped down from the stage and moved to the back where the young women was standing shyly.  

“I am Sir General Reverend Evangelist Honourable National Minister Boss Comrade Dr. Oliver as everyone knows,” the minister began, “Minister of… who formerly worked as…I took part in the liberation struggle…my father was…that is why I have made it in life.”

“Nice to meet you, General Honourable Minister,’’ the young woman said. “My name is Angelika.”

“Sir Dr. National Minister, not just Minister,” he corrected her nicely, stirred by her feminine charm.  “You are very beautiful.”

“Thank you,” she replied, looking down.

“Where do you live?”

“I live in Munuki.”

“God! Why would such a beautiful creature live in such a remote part of the city? This is very sad.”

The minister talked at length about how important he was and all the calls he got daily from world leaders wanting his advice on sensitive national matters, and Angelica listened closely, a look of fascination and admiration on her face. And then he proposed to her.

“I love you and want to marry you.”

“Oh?” she asked in surprise. “But I am already engaged to be married. My suitor presented fifty cows to my father.”

“Just fifty? Why did they insult you as such? Why would you be engaged with only fifty cows? Your thighs alone deserve a hundred cows.”

The young woman laughed bashfully. 

“What if I paid back the cows to the guy and you called off the engagement?”

She appeared to give it some thought.

 “I think I have to look into that,” she said.

“Of course. And I know very well that thinking is hard and requires some cash.”

He wrote her a generous cheque. 

“Thank you, Sir General Reverend Evangelist Honourable National Minister Boss Comrade Dr. Oliver!” she said, putting the cheque in her handbag.

“And here is my number,” he said as he presented it to her written on his new phone’s screen.

“Take the number and the phone itself. It’s for you.”

Angelika smiled demurely and accepted the gift. 

The thought process took several days, during which Sir General Reverend Evangelist Honourable National Minister Boss Comrade Dr. Oliver called regularly and provided more financial support for the difficult task. Finally, Angelika agreed.

“I have decided to accept your proposal, but we must keep our engagement a secret.”

Excited, the minister asked that the ex-suitor come to his office as soon as possible. Sure enough, the young man presented himself the next morning.

“Is this all of you or is another part of you coming?” he asked the young man, looking him up and down in distaste. “You look like a stick.”

“It is me,” the young man replied, accepting the minister’s insult with a smile.

“What’s your name?”

“Lado, sir.”

“Well then, Lado. To get to the point: I wish you to break your engagement with Angelika. She is mine now.”

The young man looked up at the minister with sadness.

“Sir, the Holy Bible says obey your leaders and submit to them anything they ask. Hebrews 13:17 made it clear. But, I am a man of little means and her family took the preliminary dowry from me.”

“Yes, yes. I will pay you back for your cows and give you a new car on top of that.” 

The minister wrote a generous cheque and threw the keys of his new car on the table.

“You are to give up on Angelika forever. Otherwise my colleagues in the National Security will deal with you.”

The man stared down at the items in disbelief, scooped them up, and disappeared.  

Having Angelika to himself was great happiness for the minister, but as the days passed he wanted her to be by his side every day. How would it be possible? He was already married to his wife and was not allowed another. So, he made her his personal secretary. Eventually, Angelika suggested that people might detect their relationship if she worked so closely with him every day. She suggested that she only work on alternate days and that someone else cover the rest of the week.

The minister agreed, and a few days later Patricia presented herself to his office, CV in hand in response to the advertisement. 

Sir General Reverend Evangelist Honourable National Minister Boss Comrade Dr. Oliver talked about his greatness and the important tasks the President had given him, staring at the beautiful Patricia and wondering why she looked familiar. He gave her the job on the same day, matching Angelika’s already generous salary with a secret bonus, and enjoyed the companionship of the two beautiful women all week long.

The months passed happily for the Minister, marred only by the recurrent suitors arranged by the young women’s families who he had to pay off with increasingly large sums of money. And then, Angelika’s frequent absences from work were explained to him one morning.

‘I’m pregnant!’

The minister rejoiced at this news and immediately put her on paid leave. They discussed her travel to Nairobi to spend the rest of her pregnancy and secretly deliver the baby there. Sir General Reverend Evangelist Honourable National Minister Boss Comrade Dr. Oliver gave Angelika $10,000 and booked her flight to Nairobi, arranged for her expensive accommodations and a monthly allowance, and hired a team of staff to keep her comfortable.

But then Patricia informed him a few days later that she had missed her period too. This was a problem. He gave Patricia $20,000 and booked her flight to Delhi to have an abortion. 

Sitting in her comfortable seat in First Class on the way to Nairobi, Angelika reached into her new designer handbag, brought out the envelopes of cash, and started counting. She counted the $10,000 she had just received from Sir General Reverend Evangelist Honourable National Minister Boss Comrade Dr. Oliver. She also counted the $20,000 she had received while cleverly disguised as Patricia. She counted the 12 months advance for paid leave from the Ministry for both her and Patricia, and their salaries for the past several months that she had been saving. She put the thick envelopes back into her bag and brought out the cheques delivered to her by Lado and the several other young men disguised as her and Patricia’s suitors. She looked over the numbers and then put them neatly back in her pocketbook. 

Leaning back and sipping a glass of juice presented to her by the stewardess, she could barely contain her joy as she calculated her newfound wealth. Laughing to herself she counted down the hours remaining for her connecting flight from Nairobi to South Africa, where Angelika and Patricia would disappear forever.

Photo courtesy of Suad Kamardeen

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