By Kur Wël Kur, Adelaide, Australia
December 31, 2016 (SSB) — Within 20 minutes of his arrival, Zacchaeus contacted his boss, partly to report his punctuality and partly to report the demise of the five UN personnel. His boss was a 2nd lieutenant, Ibrahim Kala, a scruffy looking guy who had a tendency of narrowing his eyes whenever he talks to those below him in rank.
His office was a mango tree with a welcoming shade; and Kala ordered his guards to encircle the tree with white ashes every morning; so anybody who trampled over the line without a permission was considered a trespasser who would receive a necessary disciplinary action except those high ranking goons, Kala referred to his seniors in the privacy of his thoughts.
“Hello boss”, Zacchaeus said with military discipline in his manners.
“You’re a day late”, he said. A beginning of a long conversation which could go either way, send Zacchaeus off free or call the prison-guards on him for an arrest.
“Yes, my mother was sicked,” he said. A raw lie that he knew in the depths of his intelligence, but he had to opt to lying because all words that trailed off the 2nd LT Kala’s mouth, when he granted him a day-long permission, still haunted him.
Three days ago, corporal Zacchaeus was under the orders of 2nd LT Kala, who was in charge of UN convoy escorts, a convoy that headed to Bortown. After they reached their destination safely, Zacchaeus begged 2nd LT Kala to allow him go and see his mum in the village. His village was two hours away from town on foot. For four years, Zacchaeus had missed his mum; 2nd LT Kala granted him a day, half-heartedly, and ordered him to report back to the station immediately without going over a day.
“That shouldn’t be an excuse because you know your duties as a soldier,” he said peering into Zacchaeus’ face.
“Or do you need me to reiterate them?”
“So why didn’t you follow my orders?”
“Sir, I have already told you that my mum was sick so she couldn’t fetch water by herself; I had to fetch it for her,” Zacchaeus said, in a boldness of an experienced liar; but his lying had a credibility because Zacchaeus Bol Chol was the only son in his family. No brothers. His two sisters were married to twelve-hour away (on foot) villages.
“You can go,” 2nd LT Kala said, waving his hands in a disrespectful manner.
“One more thing, sir!” Zacchaeus said.
“What?” Echoed a response; a response that was a hint for his anger toward Zacchaeus. In that question was the word no in CAPITAL LETTERS to anything from Zacchaeus, anything it might had been.
“Sir, I got picked up by a driver (Kenyan) of UN land cruiser in Mongalla, but after an hour distance, just 40 minutes away from Torit; we had a flat tyre so we vacated the car in order for us to change the grudging tyre; then another UN land cruiser with the four passengers and a driver, all Kenyans, sped past us without stopping. We didn’t bother because we had already changed the tyre and were getting onto the car when they whizzed past us; just as we rolled back on the road, we heard a deafening sound, a sound that sounded like grenade or ant-tank mine. When we arrived at the scene, no survivors; the car was unrecognisable.”
“How do you know the car was carrying five people and it sped past you without stopping?”
“Sir, their ashes remained where they (deceased) seated. They looked like mummies. So with fire-mummified bodies, we counted four passengers plus a driver,” Zacchaeus said.
“Is the car in the middle of the road, or the impact hauled it off the road?”
“It’s in the middle, but the impact positioned it across the road.”
2nd LT Kala lingered around every excuse to despise Zacchaeus, to discredit his report, but the captain was sitting in a balcony puffing away a smoke. He eavesdropped and the conversation was recorded and tucked away in his subconscious. Zacchaeus’ report, to him, made a lot of sense given the position of the UN in the liberation. Bread winner? Publicity? He remembered a foreign policy lessons they (All People Liberation’s officials) received as cadets.
One particular examination question, set by the Commander in Chief (C-in-C) himself, shot out of his subconscious. And the question was: “why do United Nations have a flag (15 marks)?” As simple as that, the question gave them a shiver and three-quarter of the class failed it. In the revision, he heard the C-in-C said, “To fail an exam question isn’t a problem, but to forget the answer after the revision is the worst sin.” Now as he stood in a weather-battered balcony, inflating his lungs and poisoning them with a hand-rolled cigarette…
All information about the mighty organization of the world kept flying into his thoughts. How/ when it was formed; when its flag was adopted; how UN always becomes malleable under the arms of some superpowers like US. Captain Odangi floated in mesmerisation of the C-in-C’s past lectures then the answer to the question hit home: UN flag is a symbol of protection; any property, personnel bearing UN flag has to be respected with same respect given to the properties of other sovereign nations. The flags symbolises sovereignty. Neutrality. Peace.
2nd LT Kala sent a suspicious glance over his shoulders toward Captain Odangi and he saw Odangi watching them. He allowed Zacchaeus to leave. He then turned to Odangi saluting him and reported the incidence that had left five UN personnel dead. Immediately, Odangi rang his boss, a commander of his battalion and the chain of communications laced up to C-in-C’s communication office within 20 minutes.
C-in-C: “Hello, this is comrade C-in- C; o-ver,” the C-in-C breathed into the long range handset of radio set R-147.
Joseph: “Good afternoon C-in-C, it’s commander Joseph Ludeng here; o-ver.”
As reflected in communication procedures: Information. Short and brief. Proposed solution. Joseph Ludeng prepared to inform the C-in-C.
C-in-C: “information? O-ver.”
Joseph: “anti-tank mine exploded under UN land cruiser; all five people dead, all UN employees; o-ver.”
C-in-C: “where? O-ver.”
Joseph: Between Ngangala and Torit, one hour away from Ngangala; o-ver.”
C-in-C: “are those in Ngangala aware? O-ver.”
Joseph: “Yes, sir; I have communicated it to them; o-ver.”
C-in-C: “Solution? O-ver.”
Joseph: “intensive patrols.”
C-in-C: “good. After we finish talking, send your public relation officer to the UN compound; convey All People Liberation’s and my condolences to UN authorities; (if possible to families of the victims). One more thing, make every mountain and every molehill along that road free of those traitors. Let those sold-out and anti-liberation run into the hands of their masters; o-ver”
Joseph: “affirmative; o-ver.
C-in-C: “bye; o-ver?”
Joseph: “bye sir; o-ver.”
Joseph Ludeng and his public relation officer (PRO) drove to the UN compound. They left their bodyguards, Ak-47s/Ak-762s, pistols and their jeep in a distance of two minutes from UN compound. They marched into the compound. With news of five dead personnel already spilled into the ears of UN authorities by Kamau, all Flags: UN’s UNICEF’s and UNESCO’s were flying half-staffs in an honour of dead ones.
Joseph and PRO had a meaningful meeting with the regional coordinator and they promised to do anything to help the UN does its job without dangerous incidences. After a half-hour meeting, they left. They couldn’t take long because the enemy was on offensive and APL was on a full alert.
However, Zacchaeus was determined to get married in 1992, with virtually nothing! No cows. Goats. Sheep. Even chickens. His wife to be was a niece to a lieutenant commander of his battalion. Zacchaeus had introduced himself to her, but she was rigid…..
To be continued… Lookout for part three…Disclaimer: It’s a work of fiction, nothing is real in this story. Any information in the story that seems real is the purest form of coincidence, a figment of my imagination.
Kur Wël Kur has a Bachelor Degree in Genetics and Zoology from Australian National University (ANU). He was the former the General Secretary of Greater Bor Community in Adelaide, Australia. He can be reached via his email contact: kurwelkur @ yahoo.com
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