"Good evening," said the newscaster as his report began, "Today is the tenth anniversary of the inspiring story of Bandari, the small African country that has become the answer to the prayers of thousands. In celebration of the day of Bandari's founding, we once again play our interview, which originally aired on that historic day, with the country's brave founder and leader, Akube Mahatu."
The screen faded to old footage inside a small white room. Against the wall sat a man in a tan, short-sleeved dress shirt, khakis, a straw hat and bifocal sunglasses. He seemed like a calm man, a patient man.
"Thank you for joining us, Mr. Mahatu." said the reporter
"It is a pleasure, sir." Akube replied.
"How did you accomplish all of this? How did you build an entire nation on your own?"
"Simply put, I did not build it on my own. It is the sum of the labors of so many people who share my belief, and that belief is that what we are born into does not have to restrain us. We can escape it if we work together. We do not have to be prisoners of our fate. We can make our own destiny."
They cut to Akube's silhouette walking across the barren plains, the orange light of the setting sun behind him as the narrator spoke, "Akube Mahatu was born in Ethiopia. His parents died when he was very young, and he was raised by his grandmother until he was five years old. From then on, he had to look after himself, narrowly surviving long marches through the desert without food or water, countless diseases, and attacks by the Lord's Resistance Army. He lived through an unending nightmare, watching as his closest friends dropped dead from starvation and AIDs. By seemingly divine intervention, Akube was able to stow away on a ship in Somalia."
"I had to stay below deck, I don't know how long." said Akube, "I was hidden in a small place, and I could not get out, for I knew that they would kill me. I got very hungry. And even if I was able to get food, I was too sick to eat it."
"Finally," the Narrator continued, "Akube jumped ship and swam to the shore, finding himself in Cairo."
"It was something I had never seen before." said Akube, "A city, buildings, I had only known the desert. In that first day, I got a taste of the outside world, and I was desperate to learn more."
"Akube lived in Cairo with a charity organization for several years, leaving for England when he was seventeen. He worked his way through college and law school. Finally, after spending almost his entire life away from home, Akube returned to Ethiopia like Moses to Egypt, grown and wise, and lead his people out of their nightmare, and into the promised land. He led them North, where they were confronted by the LRA. Mahatu and the volunteers who had helped him lead the group miraculously fought off the soldiers, and settled in a large stretch of land near the sea, which the soldiers had been using as an outpost. Akube later claimed that this land was a sovereign nation, a claim which brought him under severe accusations from the government. When put on trial for his attempted secession, Akube represented himself and stood his ground, stating that he founded his unofficial country as a safe haven for the less fortunate of Africa. Although the courts considered his claim laughable, he began to receive backing from charity groups human rights organizations across the world. Eventually, even the United Nations supported his cause, and they were given a small sliver of coastal land on the West coast of Africa to call their own, a country that Akube named Bandari. With financial aid from charities, they began to build and secure their new home. When the time came for a leader to be chosen, the people unanimously elected Akube." As he spoke, footage of Akube's inauguration ceremony played. In the city streets, still under construction, they cheered and cast flower pedals down from above. Akube rode through the streets, adorned with beads and smiling as brightly as the sun.
The screen returned to Akube and the reporter sitting across from each other in the little room. “Many of your people are calling you ‘King Akube’. How do you respond to that?” the reporter asked.
“I am not a king." Akube asserted firmly, "King is a dangerous word here. A man fancies himself a king, the next day, his soldiers are butchering children. There is no greater fear of mine than to become a king.”
"The population of Bandari continues to grow as refugees from Uganda, Ethiopia, and Sierra Leone are escorted here." said the narrator, "However, Akube claims that they are expanding at a rate to accommodate these people, and that Bandari's economy is booming. Many of his people say that they had never known such a life was possible, and Mahatu agreed."
"When I was a child, I would never have believed this possible." said the leader of Bandari, "I would believe, through and through, that all there was to life was suffering. And there are people out there who still believe that, who still live in misery with no hope, not even any notion, of escape. Today, I have the chance to give them a better life. I have a chance to set everyone free, and I intend to act on it. Hope is real. Let us find it together."
The screen faded back to the newscaster at his desk. "Truly a great man. That was ten years ago. Bandari's crime rate is still one of the lowest in the world. U.N. Peacekeepers are no longer stationed at the border. As the people of Bandari say, 'We can defend ourselves, Akube protects us'."
THE BANDARI BORDER...
Two trucks parked side by side on the road, their headlights dim in the dead of night. The road was beset on both sides with thick jungle, and at the mouth of the trees, just beyond, lay a great wooden fence, separating Bandari from the rest of the world. A group of men, some young enough to be considered boys, jumped out of the truck beds wielding AK-47's. Their superiors whispered orders, but one of them was immediately snatched by the shoulder and pulled into the darkness. His comrades noticed that he vanished, and another stepped forward to look for him, but was immediately taken round the ankle by rope and pulled into the trees. The others began to panic, separating and aiming their guns in all directions. Suddenly, two screamed and were cast down the road by the powerful arms of a dark figure. A large man in a bulletproof vest rushed after the figure, who was barely visible by the weak headlights. He swung his machete, and the attacker dodged, he swung again and was struck with the flat of the attacker's palm in his elbow, dropping the machete. With his other hand, he landed a devastating punch on the figure's shoulder, but it quickly recovered and took him by the throat, lifting him up and slamming him down on the hood.
Two more of the soldiers came, and the mysterious attacker quickly dealt with them. The rest dropped their guns and ran back up the road, as fast as their legs would carry them, away from Bandari.
The attacker returned to the caved in hood of the car, where the big man lay groaning in pain. He jumped up and perched over the man, looking him in the eye with the ferocity of an animal. "Y-you can't... be real..." said the soldier, "Just... just a myth... not real."
"But I am real." whispered the attacker, "And I am not happy with you. Remember, and tell your friends... Bandari. Is. Protected." As he finished, the soldier slipped into unconsciousness and he jumped back onto the ground. From behind, he heard the click of a rifle being loaded. He spun around to see one of the children, gun trembling in his hands, aimed at him.
"Put the gun down." said the man in black gently. The boy did not respond. "They are all gone." he continued, "No one left to tell you what to do. No one left to hurt you. Please... put the gun down." Finally, a tear welling in his eye, the boy dropped the gun and fell to his knees. Akube knelt with him and held him. "It's alright..." he whispered, "You are safe now. I promise."