Mama Koko and the Hundred Gunmen: An Ordinary Family’s Extraordinary Tale of Love, Loss, and Survival in Congo
Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
Date: February 2015
Duration: 5 hours 47 minutes
International human rights activist Lisa Shannon spent many afternoons at the kitchen table having tea with her friend Francisca Thelin, who often spoke of her childhood in Congo. Thelin would conjure vivid images of lush flower gardens, huge fish, and of children running barefoot through her family’s coffee plantation. She urged Shannon to visit her family in Dungu to get a taste of real Congo, peaceful Congo, a place so different than the conflict-ravaged lands Shannon knew from her work as an activist.
But then the nightly phone calls from Congo began: reports from Francisca’s mother of gunmen from Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, which had infested Dungu and began launching attacks. Night after night, “Mama Koko” delivered the devastating news of Francisca’s cousins, nieces, nephews, friends, and neighbors, who had been killed, abducted, burned alive on Christmas Day.
In an unlikely journey, Shannon and Thelin decided to travel from Portland, Oregon, to Dungu to witness firsthand the devastation unfolding at Kony’s hands. Masquerading as Francisca’s American sister-in-law, Shannon tucked herself into Mama Koko’s raw cement living room and listened to the stories of Mama Koko and her husband, Papa Alexander, as well as those from dozens of friends and neighbors who lined up outside the house and waited for hours, eager to offer their testimony. These lively stories transport Shannon from the chaos of the violence around her and bring to life Francisca’s stories of the peaceful Congo.
But as the LRA camp out on the edge of town grew, tensions inside the house reached a fever pitch, and Shannon and Thelin’s friendship was fiercely tested. Shannon was forced to confront her limitations as an activist and reconcile her vision of what it means to effect meaningful change in the lives of others.
Illuminating and heartfelt, Mama Koko and the Hundred Gunmen, is an exquisite testimony to the beauty of human connection and the strength of the human spirit.
“Lisa Shannon is known for the courage, grace, and love through which she brings to everyone’s attention the harshness and beauty of humanity experienced in the Democratic Republic of Congo. With a compassionate eye, she analyzes how ordinary individuals deal with that difficult reality. In Mama Koko and the Hundred Gunmen, Shannon shows the magic of her writing by taking the reader on that journey. It is a journey of the heart that everyone should read.”—Zainab Salbi, founder of Women for Women International and author of Between Two Worlds