It was the thirteenth of November 1965. The afternoon breeze swept across Lake Victoria, gently bending the reeds and papyrus vegetation on the winam shoreline. Gentle waves rolled on the water surface to the beach, levelling out at the feet of the solitary figure that stood at the edge of the gulf like a tower. On that day, all the fishermen were back at the village. Waiting.
Odera Akango stood at a clearing along the forested shore of the lake. Below his tree trunk legs, his wide feet were submerged in water up to his ankles, his gorged veins were snaking across his calves and muscular arms like giant climbers. Blades of twisted mud grass peeped at the water surface at his feet. His red eyes darted across the surface of the water, monitoring every movement, assessing every ripple. His large nostrils flared as he smelt the water and the vegetation.
There was something in the lake. A monster. A ferocious subterranean creature was ravaging the endemic fish and other aquatic life in the lake to extinction.
Shaken fishermen had reported about an explosively powerful creature that had torn out of their kira with the savagery and strength of a wounded hippo. Nyabwa, a seasoned kira fisherman, had narrated how he had cornered the strange fish in his reed trap at dawn, and just after spearing the fish, it broke the spear and tore out of the kiek as if it was made of grass and disappeared into the lake in a blast water. Even the biggest kamongo could not be so powerful. And it was not mumi fish. He remembered how Nyabwas lips trembled as he narrated his encounter with the frightening predator.
He had never seen Nyabwa so afraid. From the descriptions, he knew it was not a crocodile and it was not a hippo or monitor lizard.
Odera Akango felt an itch at the injury on his big toe and he lifted it out of the water and his searchlight eyes clamped on it. Two black leeches were hooked on his wound and were gorged with blood. His blood. Leeches aided in the healing of wounds by sucking away bad blood. He dipped his foot back in the water and looked at a shadowy section of the shoreline where thick papyrus vegetation was hanging overhead, blocking the sweltering sun above.
He swiftly lowered his muscular bulk to the water and retrieved a mudfish stuck in the mud amidst the twisted grass and then he drove the metal hook through it. He was going to use it as bait to lure the monster in the water and then spear it and drag it out of the water.
Since this monster appeared in the lake, the fishermen complained that tilapia population had dwindled and obudi and mudfish had all but disappeared. They believed that the predator must have been a monster fish with a rapacious appetite that fed on all the fish and zooplanktons, eliminating the fish and forcing the survivors to migrate elsewhere to seek food.
The village had tasked him to go and trap the monster and kill it. He was to use his hunter’s instincts and combine with his knowledge of fishing to find and kill the lake predator. He accepted the honor and relished the challenge.
He firmly tied the iron hook at the end of a sisal rope and picked up his spear then with the agility of a cat, he leapt up and perched himself on top of a heap of reeds just under the cover of overhanging papyrus. Then he gently lowered the bait and waited.
As he waited for his quarry, he witnessed a black mamba fight with a monitor lizard at the foot of the reeds and after a spirited battle, the monitor lizard chewed on the mamba, tearing off its head, then eating it up. Then it staggered off and collapsed a few metres away, overcome by the effects of the venom the mamba had injected during their battle. He remembered how he had seen many strong wrestlers lose matches after expending their energy recklessly without proper strategy and ending up losing to less worthy opponents.
He sat patiently, swatting the mosquitoes and lake flies. He waited for several hours and evening came with no sign of the predator. The seagulls started their evening cries and migration to their nests and cattle left the grazing fields. Hippos would soon start approaching the shore in readiness for their nocturnal forages. Odera sat still in the approaching dusk. As a hunter, lengthy moments of stillness was a skill he had mastered. A few feet away, a thick green mamba lay coiled quietly in the papyrus leaves, probably waiting for him to leave its nest. Man and snake faced off still like wooden statues. Each waiting. The evening breeze softly rustled the reeds and the tide was coming in.
Suddenly, there was a violent tug at the bait that threatened to cut the rope. The tug was so powerful that it threw Odera Akango into the water. The predator bit on the hook and twisted away from Odera Akango, splashing water wildly. He pulled the trapped monster toward him and thrust his spear at it with tremendous force. He pulled his spear out for another thrust but the thrashing predator broke it, and knocked him out of balance. The water was becoming red with blood as it thrashed savagely. Birds fled from their nests in this pandemonium and the green mamba fell in the water. He pulled the rope above his head and tried to fling the predator on the reeds. But it was too heavy. Its spread out dorsal fin scratched his stomach as it twisted away from him. Blood dripped from his wound and he created some distance from it and pulled the rope harder.
He quickly darted toward the shore and started dragging it after him, his brute strength overcoming the spirited resistance the fish had mounted. After tussling with it some more, he finally managed to drag it out of the water.
The villagers would later assemble at the beach to stare at the huge monster of a silvery fish.
It was a massive fish, the size of a grown man. It was silver in color with black compound eyes with a yellow ring around them. It had a massive tunnel of a mouth that could clamp on the head of a grown man and its rows of jagged teeth had pieces of flesh and vegetation locked in them.
It was the first Nile perch caught in the Winam gulf in Nyanza region and they called it mbuta because of its massive size, disruptive reaction when trapped and its rapacious appetite.
Mbuta’s predatory behaviour would be a major ecological force that would significantly alter the biodiversity of the lake as the descendants of Odera Akango would later learn.
The wound that was inflicted on Odera Akango got infected and would prove fatal.