Chapter Twenty One
How Loony eventually fled into exile and the smile returned to Smiling Forest
Loony’s refusal to step down in the face of several mediation efforts heightened the threat of war and greatly worried the peace loving animals of Smiling Forest. Increasingly concerned about their safety and the safety of their families and loved ones, more and animals sadly trekked into exile to neighboring forests. Judging by what he said and the way he behaved, it became crystal clear to the animals that Loony did not care a hoot whether they lived or died, whether their blood and the blood of their innocent children and relatives in the armed foxes was spilled or not, or whether Smiling Forest became a raging battleground in a war whose consequences no one could imagine. The animals now saw that all Loony cared about was Loony and as far as he was concerned, Smiling Forest may as well be burnt to ashes if that would allow him to stay on in power for as long as he lived. But the animals also clearly saw that come what may, Loony must go because the odds were just too stacked against him. And they were just totally sick and tired of the mad fox in power. They knew that it was never again going to be ‘Loony bark animal run’.
Loony was devastated when in a surprise tactical move that confused the mad fox to no end, the Association of Neighboring Forests suddenly invited the victor to attend the summit of presidents in the neighboring forest of Mili. This sudden and unexpected development really spooked Loony who repeatedly gnashed his teeth and furiously switched his tail this way and that to emphasize his anger. What evil plot are they hatching, he wondered. But of course, no answer was forthcoming and Loony began to throw furtive glances this way and that for a possible escape route just in case the Association of Neighboring Forests had some funny trick up their evil sleeves. It was widely reported in the international media that while the Association of Neighboring Forests was ready to send their armed foxes in to get Loony, the victor himself preferred a peaceful resolution to the crisis. But while the animals of Smiling Forest also preferred a peaceful resolution, they hoped and prayed that the victor would not reject the use of force to kick Loony out because that was clearly the only way the mad fox could be persuaded to leave power. When some animals interviewed on the international media were asked if they shared the victor’s optimism that Loony would leave power peacefully, their answer was a categorical no. Loony would only leave power if he were physically kicked out either through the use of force or the very credible threat of force against him. The mad fox had proven over and over again that the only language he understood was the language of force, which he habitually inflicted on innocent animals and which was the only way to take him out of power.
Four days to the expiry of Loony’s last term in office, Smiling Forest remained in an unpredictable limbo thanks to Loony’s evil and ill-fated plot to stay in power after his crushing defeat by the candidate for the coalition of independent animals. No one knew how the impasse would end, but many were convinced that Loony had to be forced out because he could not be reasoned with to leave. The unimaginable alternative to forcing him out would be many more years of Loony’s brutal dictatorship which the animals even dreaded to imagine. So while every animal held their breath and some fled into exile, they were unanimous that if getting Loony out of power meant war in their small beautiful forest, they would prefer that to extending Loony’s brutal regime over them. They were just sick and tired of the evil fox who dressed up in the garbs of piety but habitually engaged in the most devilish behavior for the past twenty two years. Shouts of ‘Loony must go no matter what’ resounding around Smiling Forest and the Smiling Forest Diaspora as the animals waited for their fate and the fate of their forest. Some hoped Loony would leave without a bloodbath while others hoped that he would remain stupid enough to insist on staying so he would be captured and made to pay for his innumerable crimes against the innocent and peace-loving animals of Smiling Forest.
Three days to the expiry of Loony’s term and the mad fox still remained defiant. But he was now openly showing signs of extreme fright as demonstrated by a call he placed to the president of Libiri Forest asking her to please make it possible for his mercenary judges to travel to Smiling Forest to settle the impasse peacefully. Watching him on TV, the animals saw that Loony’s face was white with fear. His increasingly dry face looked like a powdered rock with rough edges and cracks for lips. His eyes were small, round and white with fright. And he sounded rattled and cagey on the phone. His speech was dry and slurred, making some animals think that he was either drunk or on drugs. “My sister I greet you in the name of the Great God Yallah,” he cracked. “I am calling to personally beg you my sister to please beg the Association of Neighboring Forests to allow my judges to come and settle this matter peacefully. Let the judges come right now please, my good and best sister ever. Please I beg you to let them come now because right now I just want peace and security,” he cackled, his voice shaking. “I swear to the Great God Yallah that I will obey the constitution of Smiling Forest and we will all make peace and live happily ever after.” When the president of Libiri Forest asked him to issue a statement making the same plea, Loony readily agreed. But everyone knew that Loony was up to his dirty tricks again. In fact, in order to give the impression to the animals of Smiling Forest that he was still in firm control of the situation, Loony was secretly recording his conversation with the president of Libiri Forest. As soon as he hung up, he had the video broadcast on national radio and television and loudly bragged that he Loony, was the one and only one who could resolve the crisis. But the wise animals of Smiling Forest knew that Loony’s mind had gone blind, his reason totally clouded by the thick fog of his evil deeds, so that he stumbled from one blunder to another even as he tried to be clever.
His betrayal of the trust of the president of Libiri Forest was a particularly fateful blunder by Loony. The Libiri Forest president who was also president of the Association of Neighboring Forests was extremely furious. She granted interviews to international media in which she roundly condemned Loony and called him a dishonest cheat of the worst sort ever to walk this earth. Loony’s betrayal further infuriated all members of the Association of Neighboring Forests and strengthened their resolve to kick the mad fox out of power come what may. And so they accelerated their preparations to remove Loony by force. News spread that more and more fierce and heavily armed foxes from the forests of Sunulep, Nigiri, Libiri and Ghini were now amassed on the Smiling Forest border, waiting to move in, pounce upon Loony and take him out. In fact at this time there were reports that some of the armed foxes had actually entered Smiling Forest and encountered no resistance from the Smiling Forest armed foxes. Muhari the giraffe, still angry at Loony’s rude treatment of him sent fighter jets from Nigiri Forest. These zoomed across the skies of Smiling Forest, their loud noises adding to Loony’s fright and heightening the anxiety of the ordinary animals, who continued to flee into exile in their thousands. Loony was rumored to have lost all capacity for sleep and grown extremely irritable. His legendary ratatoi was fast coming back as small white cracks of fear appeared at the corners of his hot dog lips. Meanwhile, the Association of Neigh boring Forests flew the victor into Sunulep Forest where he awaited his inauguration as the new leader of Smiling Forest.
Driven more by his growing fear of capture and possible death than by concern for the peace and security of the animals of Smiling Forest, Loony secretly welcomed the presidents of the neighboring forests of Muriti and Gini to Smiling Forest. Their mission was to “persuade” Loony to leave. Two days of behind the door conversations passed before news started leaking that Loony had finally agreed to go. When the deadline for him to step down was just hours ago, it was announced that Loony had requested a few hours extension, which was granted by the Association of Neighboring Forests. Loony now knew that this was indeed the end of the road for him. The armed foxes chief had made it clear that he would not order his soldiers into battle on behalf of Loony and with that support gone, Loony knew that the die had been cast. He either had to leave, or fall into the hands of the fierce armed foxes from neighboring forests, and then he would either be killed or put in chains and dragged before a court of law to answer for all the innumerable crimes he had committed as the brutal dictator of Smiling Forest.
And so it was that one historic evening, the animals of Smiling Forest watched the mad fox who had vowed to rule them for a billion years stepped off their beloved soil onto a plane that carried him off into exile in the distant forest of Ekuta Guana. There he would live in exile, hosted by another notorious despot, the infamous Obinga Guma aka vampire, who was said to be so rich that his clothes were made of gold while the animals he ruled were so poor that they ate mud for survival. The Smiling Forest animals were so relieved that they could hardly jubilate. Most animals just broke down and wept, and praised the Great God Yallah for finally ending the tyrannical rue of the mad and brutal fox who had terrorized them for twenty two long years. Many months later, as the smile started returning to Smiling Forest and life got back to normal, pictures started circulating around the world of a frail and confused looking Loony lounging around in the thick and muddy jungles of Ekuta Guana. That was the end of many many dark days in Smiling Forest.
By Baba Galleh Jallow