Monday, December 11 8:51 a.m.
I got up earlier than usual this morning (even though I had trouble sleeping last night), showered, and left the hotel. I followed the same path as yesterday except I extended it just a little bit. I walked past the place where I watched the soccer game and continued to the corner. Here taxis wait for fares and the local mini vans fill up with passengers before heading off down the Route National to downtown.
I’m a bit more oriented now in that I used my compass to at least establish in which direction the ocean, and therefore downtown lay and in which direction lay the rest of Guinea, the north, the Fouta Djalon, where I’ll be cycling soon.
I turned right toward downtown and walked till I left the market area behind and found a place where I could sit at a table and have what I’ve learned is called “un petit cafe,” basically an espresso. It’s a simple place, a single room with cinder block walls, torn apart tables and plastic chairs. The roof is corrugated tin, the corners populated with spiders hunting flies, and lizards I assume hunting spiders.
There’s something going on in this cafe. It is filled with men drinking coffee, which is why I stopped here, but once seated I realized the men were gathered for another purpose as well. Two tables have been pushed together against the back wall and men in military uniforms are handing out papers which everyone is busily reading and then filling out.
It caught my attention in particular because last night upon returning to the hotel with Conde and Mercenary Bob we found the hotel staff abuzz with rumours and news about a Guinean rebel army in Kissidougou. This was, of course, of particular interest to Mercenary Bob and we tried to get the story straight.
Our waiter (he said his name was ‘Musulman’) was a refugee from Sierra Leone and he spoke English. He said that he had heard a speech on the BBC from the leader of this rebel army, a man called Mohammed Lafin Foufana. Whether Foufana said it in his speech or the clerk heard it somewhere else he said the army was only a few kilometres from the eastern town of Kissidougou and would soon take the city. The population of the city is rumoured to have fled into the forest. This rumour was supported by the receptionist at the hotel and others who have been telephoning their families in Kissi and getting no answer.
This news prompted an interrogation of Musulman by Bob. (Bob later thanked him for the “debriefing.”) This was partially in preparation for the arrival today of the Intelligence Officer from Bob’s organization which I learned last night was called J&L International Security.
Bob and J&L are still more a mystery than anything else. I’ve certainly never met a self proclaimed mercenary before and haven’t even tried to separate fact from fiction. I doubt I could if I tried. It surprised me actually to learn that there really was something behind Bob’s talk. He showed me a picture of himself as a young (very tough looking) soldier in South Yemen. There were 3 soldiers in the photo with an X over Bob. He said his mother put the X there. So even aging soldiers of fortune have mothers.
The 10 page document he handed me outlined the services that J&L could provide and the qualifications of the upper echelon. The men running J&L were of course all ex military with training in all aspects of warfare plus security. The things they could do ranged from providing basic security to companies to “asset tracking and retrieval.” The list did not say so in so many words but the implication was this company could also be hired for undercover work, assassinations, weapons procurement and troop training. Bob says this organization could, at a moment’s notice, provide any government in the world with hundreds of fully armed parachute troops.
I have no basis except common sense on which to judge the things he said. Most of it comes across as fantasy but we’ll see.