I'd been looking for an excuse to leave Kampala for a several weeks. After our guard stole my roommate's bankroll and the security company asked us to decide whether he should be fired or pistol-whipped -- we settled on the latter after both protesting and soliciting his input -- I'd been tasked with a story about health care that required me to loiter in a hospital where amputees dragged themselves down the halls from ward to ward. I was young and these slight horrors planted the seeds of anxiety: I was convinced that the waiters at the expatronized Ethiopian restaurant, who al-Shabab would murder a few years later
, had become rude and that the screeners at the gates of parliament had taken an unhealthy interest in my press pass.
When my less-than-encouraging editor offered me the Murchison Falls story, I took it immediately. I'd never said no to him and it was finally convenient to say yes. I didn't want to be at home anymore. My half-built compound had been all but taken over by a group of construction workers, men who wore their muscles like wet suits and sweated accordingly.
Murchison Falls National Park
had once been renowned enough for its plentiful wildlife to attract the Queen and the Prince of Wales, but the last few decades had been hard on the area around Masindi and Lake Edward. A series of rebel armies -- anti-Milton Obote, anti-Idi Amin, anti-Yoweri Museveni -- took up residency in the hills near the Blue Nile. After a Lord's Resistant Army soldier gunned down a British tourist
on safari in the park in 2005, the State Department issued a warning and the slow trickle of adventurous Europeans stopped altogether. Most of Joseph Kony's boys fled the scene of the crime and the few elephants, crocodiles and hippos that hadn't been eaten or used for target practice were finally left in peace.