Author: George Kitsaras
Editor-in-Chief / Psychologist / Doctoral Researcher
While having a casual chat in the offices of WEND Africa, having just finished yet another meeting on planned activities, I turned around and said to him: “So Emmy, while I’m in Uganda, I would like to be able to have a moment with you and ask you some questions to then hopefully write an article”. Emmy took a moment, look me straight in the eyes and started to laugh. He laughed really hard. At first, I thought he misunderstood me so I tried to repeat my request. He quickly stopped me and he reassured me that his ears worked perfectly well but he laughed because no one ever had a similar request and that amused him. He pointed at Jolly, who was sitting just opposite to us having another conversation and said: “she’s the one who matters, my role is just to make her vision a reality. No one wants to hear about me, it’s her and her life that people need to know”.
At that point, I started to wonder. How come no one ever wanted to have a discussion with him and put his views and comments down on an article? After all, not only he’s an active member of the board for WEND Africa, not only he’s currently reviving Invisible Children Uganda but he has been by Jolly Okot-Andruville’s side for decades. That last attribute gives him an extra edge, an insider’s view on the day to day life, the difficulties and the decision-making processes of one of the most remarkable women of her generation and by far one of Uganda’s most important humanitarians. Of course, many have written for Jolly’s successes and her life’s story and many more will do the same in the future. She’s a woman with an extraordinary past and even more promising and exciting future. But in Emmy’s case I felt that I wanted to know more. I wanted to know his views, his ideas, his beliefs and see how they go hand-in-hand with Jolly’s grand vision. I felt that he has something to contribute, not to overshadow or undermine Jolly but compliment and support one another as they do day in and day out for many years now.
After taking some time to reflect on Emmy’s amusement and unexpected reaction, I explained the rationale behind my request. He then took some time to reflect on what I just said. This time, he was less amused. He took his glasses off, unsuccessfully tried to clean them using his shirt, turned to me and in a more serious manner said:” look, it’s Jolly who’s important here. I’m just a follower. I don’t think I have something to contribute. If you want, you can again have a long discussion with her”. At that point, it seemed clear to me that Emmy was not going to back down and agree on an interview. It felt that my request caught him by surprise and that’s why he initially joked about it. When he realised that I was serious and after explaining my rationale, his approach changed. He wanted to make it clear that there’s no need to have an elaborate discussion with him. His hesitation was something more than just a simple refusal. It showcase, simply yet perfectly clear, his overarching attitude when it comes to the things that matter. His priority is Jolly, it always has been Jolly.
Up to that stage I thought I knew Emmy well and I thought he’ll be delighted to talk to me. I have spent more time with him over the past 2 years than with Jolly herself. He drove me a few times from Kampala to Gulu and back, a 5-6 hours journey. We did twice the amazing water and game safari at Murchison Falls National Park near the border with the DR of Congo. We also kept in regular contact when I was back in Europe. Despite our regular interactions, every single one of them revolved around Jolly and Jolly’s activities. He was the one always coming up with new ideas, new initiatives but all of them were then directed back to the same person, to the same cause. Through his hesitation Emmy helped me to realise that a more formal and structured interview would have offered me only a few extra glimpses behind his usual serious facade. I actually knew Emmt well. The Emmy I know, is a hardworking, fully dedicated, caring and supportive husband, colleague and friend. A person who has his own past, his own beliefs and ideas but who’s ultimately always ready to stand by Jolly. Together they make a great team one that has helped many who have suffered at the hands of oppressors and abusers. Together they’re stronger and they achieve much more!