In 2010, Joseph Dahr, a middle aged ex-soldier attempts to rescue from the LRA his wife and son who are abducted from his eastern DR Congo village, all he has is a rusty rifle he can use and an old friend he can trust. Dahr believes Rosa and Joe Junior would not have been abducted had he taken them to Kinshasa as Rosa had begged him to. He would hence, not forgive himself unless he brings them home by any means. He summarized his mission in a dialogue with Hussein thus, “I am not an idiot. I know the dangers in what I am about to do, but it is the only way I can live with myself.” He relies upon Hussein, an American spy, to arm him with all the details on the LRA’s mode of operation. Hussein on his own has what he thinks is a perfect plan to finish Kony but believes his superiors in the Pentagon would not buy it. He decides teaming up with Dahr is the way forward. Along the road of gathering intelligence and materials for his big showdown with the LRA, Dahr meets and inspires several other men who equally have personal reasons to take a fight to the LRA. Consequently, the burden of leading an army of distraught men while keeping his eyes on the goal now has to be added to his many troubles.
Only once did Vincent Muzota came to Joseph’s mind, and that was the moment he spotted the grey bearded old man under that same tree shade in that same fishing vest. Joseph walked straight to him.
“Hello Mr. Vince, good day,” he took the old man’s hand and made a firm handshake.
“Hello, how are you?”
“I am great, sir, how about you?”
“Can’t be better,” Vincent shrugged cheerfully, “Jay, you look sunny today, found your son?”
Joseph was a little startled, “I am surprised, you remember me.”
“I remember everybody, it is my job to remember people.”
“Does your job require you to know all the refugees’ faces?”
“That makes my job easier.”
“And everyone that comes in here?”
“You haven’t answered my question, Jay. Your son?”
“No, I have not found him but I know I will soon.”
“That’s the spirit, son.”
Joseph nodded three times.
This time there was no extra chair for him to sit but the good news was, he wasn’t asking for one.
“What brings you here, Jay?”
Joseph faced the man straightly, “Do you happen to know a certain Arab man who visits this camp regularly? He is a reporter for Al-Jazeera.”
“He has a name?”
“Of course, Hussein.”
“Yes, that was all he told me.”
“Why do you wanna see him?”
“I have not mentioned that I want to see him but yes, I want to see him, so have you seen this man?”
“Hah...Jay you’re a damned smarty pants,” Vincent smiled broadly, “so why do you want to see him?”
“I need to ask him some questions, have you seen him today?”
“No I haven’t, do you have an appointment with him here today?”
Joseph squinted, thinking the interrogation was getting out of hand.
Vincent saw the look and must have suspected Joseph’s mind, “I asked that because you can only be sure of meeting someone in this sought of place only when you both agree to meet.”
“No, we did not. I suspected I can meet him here today which is a week after we met. He mentioned that he comes here every week.”
“That is not the same as coming same day of the week.”
“I know that, this is my best chance.”
“You know what, Jay,” Vincent said calmly and thoughtfully, “you are a smart man, I only wish I’d met you twenty years earlier.”
Joseph had no idea how to respond to that, he wasn’t even certain if it was a complement or not. It could mean Joseph had out-lived the age he was more suited for. Joseph could not tell.
He licked his lips thoroughly, “I need to find Hussein.”
He said a brief goodbye to Vincent and walked away into the camp’s main settlement without Fire-on-Heels telling him he was breaching security or the soldiers to bundle him away like a threat to global peace.
He took a casual stroll, glancing briefly at every tent he went past. The refugees, mostly young girls and older women were carrying on what had now become their normal lives. Fetching woods from nearby forests and water from a reservoir, walking in small groups of four and fives and cheering quite happily to the gossip on ground.
Joseph decided there was nothing interesting about the walk and did an awkward U-turn. Two women who sat in front of a shelter eyeballed him cautiously, he thought he knew what they were thinking. The same thing his grandmother would think. That only stray dogs and bizarrely confused men would do such a turn in the middle of the road.
He was confident Hussein had not showed up for the day, he was also certain for some reason that he’d come, so he headed with that same confidence back towards the entrance of the camp.
He was in the middle of a spoken salutation with the soldiers when he looked up and saw his man coming.
He barely recognized him.
This time he was in different regalia and was a little cleaned up. He wore a brown long sleeve shirt with several buttons missing and some heavy patches of mud stains in the front, but in general it was a handsome upgrade from last week. His black pants were damp in the region around his ankle and his running shoes were wet, filthy and soiled.
“Joseph, I knew you’d come back for me,” he spread his arms to give him a hug and then kissed his cheeks.
“How are you, Hussein?”
“That is something.”
“Especially if you have my kind of job.”
“Talking of which I am here today.”
Hussein turned away from Joseph and went to the soldiers on guard and began to hug and kiss them one after the other, grinning from ear to ear and making little jokes to which the soldiers laughed endlessly. He’s a rock star here and for a second Joseph envied his socializing grandness.
When he returned to Joseph he said, “I need you to do me a favor, will you?”
“What might that be?”
“You will go and wait for me at the motor park. We can’t talk here. When you get there stay close to the bus travelling to Lasu, I can easily find you there.”
“Is that all?”
“That is all.”
“I shall be on my way, immediately.”
“Great guy, I’ll join in ten minutes, I need to see someone here quickly.”
Hussein took more than ten minutes before he joined Joseph but Joseph did not complain and Hussein did not bother to apologize. He led Joseph from the side of the bus to a kiosk by the roadside where a newspaper vendor was calling loudly for buyers.
“Joseph, thank you for coming,” Hussein said like he did not mean it, “what do you have for me?”
Joseph was not sure how disappointed Hussein would be to get nothing after all the high hopes, “Hussein, I do not have anything for you.” He had to say it anyway. And plainly too.
“You are sure?”
“I am sorry.”
If Hussein was disappointed he did not show one bit of it. His certainty was that Joseph did not travel all the distance just to look at his face while he told him he had nothing for him. He knew there had to be something to listen to and whatever it was, Hussein was all ears.
“You want me to buy you a drink, Joseph?”
Joseph shook his head somberly.
“Are you okay, Joseph?”
“Yes I am, thanks.”
“So what brings you to me? Are you sure you don’t want something? A drink? Cigarette?”
“No, no, thanks.”
“They serve good palm wine somewhere close.”
“Trust me, Hussein, I’m okay this way.”
They sat there wordlessly for some embarrassing seconds idly watching commuters and traders do their daily business. Joseph was asking himself how he all of a sudden grew this timid as their silence grew more uneasy.
“I need your help, Hussein,” he eventually said.
Hussein looked at him, “Hmm,” he nodded like he saw that coming.
“You said you report on the LRA and I can see you know quite a lot about them.”
“I wouldn’t call that a lot.”
“But you know more than most people would ordinarily do.”
“That is closer to the fact.”
“I need you to give me as much information as you can.”
Hussein looked at him in utter amazement as if he just asked him to interview Mickey Mouse, “Why do you want that?”
Joseph stammered on some inaudible words nervously.
“Are you writing a book or an article or something? You should know you can’t quote me, it’s no use.”
“I do not want to quote you anywhere,” Joseph blurted, “I need to know all that I can about the LRA.”
“Okay buddy, here you go. Their leader is Joseph Kony.”
Joseph blinked rapidly.
“Their name in full is The…”
“For Christ’s sake Hussein. I am not a current affairs pupil. Where are they right now and where do they have the abductees? How they guard them and so on.”
“The last time we met I was the one asking those questions.”
“Now I need them.”
Hussein began to scratch his long beards, “Were you able to find your son?”
“You think he was abducted?”
“I know he was abducted.”
“I hope you’re not planning to do what I’m thinking you are?” he was looking straight into Joseph’s constricted pupil.
Joseph looked away, “I might be…”
“Wait a minute Joseph, are you thinking you can walk in there and snatch your son from them and they’ll perhaps marvel at your courage and applaud you while you walk away?”
“I have not ruled that out entirely but I do have more confronting plans.”
“Joseph, take this from me, these people are mean. They’re the meanest bunch of creatures I’ve ever seen.”
“I plan to be too, when I meet them.”
“You have gone crazy, right? You should do yourself a favor.”
“Look, if you plan to talk me out of this then your job is more difficult than mine.”
“This makes you sound like an idiot.”
“I am not an idiot. I know the dangers in what I am about to do, but it is the only way I can live with myself.”
“I have seen many men attempt this, they ended up as manures for the forests.”
“I have also seen a couple of men try to talk me out of this, they ended up joining me.”
Hussein stood pensively, focusing his gaze on a rooster by the roadside, it was joined by a brown mother hen and they started pecking on the eyes of a half dead fox.
“Hussein, please do me this favor.”
“I don’t know where the abductees are right now.”
“But you shall know later?”
“I hope to. For the record, you’re about to do something stupid.”
“The record is filled. LRA left me no choice.”
“I understand how you feel, Joseph. I would contemplate that if in your shoes.”
Joseph clamped his hands behind his back, “Many people would.”
“But only a few would attempt it. You have not been watching too much hero movies, have you?”
Joseph forced a smile, “I do not intend to reproduce a movie scene, all I want is to take back my son.”
“I hope you can, because soon they will so brainwash your son so badly he will be heartless and hardened that he will return to shoot you in the head.”
“They will not have that chance.”
“I’m moved by your confidence.”
“It is all I have left; I should put it to good use.”
“See Joseph, the LRA at the moment has three combatant units,” Hussein spoke authoritatively like he was Kony himself.
Joseph concentrated on what he was saying. His eyes were fixed on Hussein, his ears wide open.
“One of them has so far proved to be the strongest, based on their operations in recent times. They are the ones you’re up against.”
“They’re somewhere east of Garamba but my details on that is a bit sketchy. I was made to understand they’re on the move but I can’t tell the pace and direction at the moment.”
“You shall find out soon, I hope.”
“Joseph, these are not the people anyone would like to take on but you have to cos they have the bulk of the abductees, including those they took from Sadi last week.”
“They have my son.”
“That is the sad story, my brother.”
A second group, they’re a fall out from Charles Arop’s men. That cut his combat strength by a third.”
“Where are they?”
“The Central African Republic, they’re as horrible as the men in the eastern wing where they came from, but they don’t carry out as much attacks, just little attacks that would sustain them for the moment, yet their foot prints are all over the CAR. Bad people, bad, bad people.”
“I might not be interested in that group.”
“You’ll never know what might come up tomorrow.”
“It’s best you keep an eye on all.”
“What about the third group?”
“They’re the big bad boys, they’re right here in South Sudan and I have every reason to believe they have the boss himself with them. Joseph Kony in flesh and blood.”
“Why are you so sure?”
“I’ve been monitoring every of their moves and I’m still unable to put them on a particular spot. The way they operate has all over it the fingerprint and DNA of Kony.”
“How is that?”
“They come into a village and cause the cruelest havoc imaginable by man and then they disappear from the entire region in less than two hours.
“How is that possible?”
“Believe me I don’t know how they do it,” he shook his head dismally, “I can’t tell how they do it for the life of me. I have been studying all his operations for close to a decade and I can tell you that only Joseph Kony can coordinate such a massive raid, movement of troops and disappearance so seamlessly. Only Kony.”
“Are you sure the other two groups do not have anything of his presence?”
“I’m certain he’s not with them, though they obviously take orders from him on basically everything. If you want Kony then you want to bring down this third group. You’ve got your job cut out, bro.”
“As much as killing Kony is enticing, all I want is my son. I do not want to waste my time and resources lusting after the wrong target,” Joseph said clearly.
“I think you should include these three groups in your plans. I know it makes it more difficult for you but at the same time it makes it more fail proof.”
“I will go after the group with my son, and that will be it.”
“Try not to see them as three different groups in different regions, no, see them as three units of one same system.”
“I do not see the logic behind that philosophy. Is there a way any of the other two would rush in and help the one we take on?”
Hussein shook his head slowly, “No,” he sighed quietly, “not if you move fast and study your route very properly so that your getaway doesn’t fall unto the path of the other unit. That is why you need to keep an eye on all three and know your route well.”
“We shall need your help on that.”
“We? Who are the others in your team?”
“Two old friends.”
“Like a three musketeers thingy?” Hussein grinned boyishly.
“How do you know you can stand the battle you’re getting ready for?”
“We have all served in the military at one time or the other.”
“Okay, three ex-soldiers missing the actions of old and have now found a priceless opportunity to get some show. The Expendables thingy? You must be saying to yourselves, Kony just touched the wrong kid.”
“You got it wrong Hussein, the only thing I am missing is my son and a normal family and a chance to be a true father.”
“Your friends will agree with me.”
Joseph pondered on Hussein’s words for a while; he would easily agree it was just about the show for Kotara. Just another stage for his hawkish heroism. He was aware he had an internal fight of keeping Kotara focused on the primary goal and he was more aware of how difficult that would be.
“There is another friend we hope to bring in soon. He is currently with the UPDF.”
“If you bring in a serving UPDF soldier to it, it will certainly make you thick. Those guys are the most disciplined and professional military force I have seen in all my years in Africa. Then there’re those AU peace-keeping forces in Darfur and Somalia.”
“Why have they not dealt with Kony and the LRA?”
“Politics, men, politics is everything. Those who have the political will don’t have the military strength and those who have the military fire power don’t have it at the top of their political priorities. That is what Kony enjoys.”
“I thought you just said the LRA are good.”
“The LRA alone cannot protect the entire region. For instance, there are only one hundred and fifty soldiers in Obo in CAR where the LRA is running rampage.”
“One hundred and fifty?”
“Yeah you heard me, one hundred and fucking fifty, that’s like meat for those LRA men. They’ll smoke them out in ten minutes of fierce combat, but believe me, that is like 10 percent of the country’s entire combat-ready force.”
“I would put in fifty percent of those forces, then,”
“That is the point I’m trying to make here. CAR government can afford to overlook whatever LRA does in Obo.”
“While they cause those monumental havoc?”
“Obo is too far away, too sparsely populated and then too removed from politics in Bangui.”
Joseph was already feeling guilty for getting Hussein started on that annoying discussion of politics and politicians.
Nothing drove him crazy like such a subject.
“Okay, okay,” he said, “we should go back to the big matter on ground here.”
“The LRA, what would you say their weak point is?”
“Forget it,” Hussein laughed, “they do have plenty of that but it’s far bigger than what can be taken advantage of by a squad of three or maybe four action-hungry ex-soldiers.
“It is highly expected that you underrate us, Hussein,” Joseph bit his lower lip, “but I would like you to know that that is exactly what you are doing right now. We are better than a squad of action-hungry ex-soldiers.”
Hussein made a serious face at him, “What makes you thick?”
“I do not know,” Joseph shook his head, looking away, “I just have the assurance that we have what it takes to shock Kony.”
“That is not enough.”
“How I do it does not matter now, all I know for sure is that I will get back my son when all this is over.”
“I have to say this again, your confidence startles me.”
“I’ll like to work with you, Joseph.”
“Please do, in any way you can. We need you.”
“And perhaps I need you too,” Hussein said thoughtfully with a faraway look from dimmed eyes of heavy and bushy eye lashes.
“How? How can we ever be of help to you?”
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