When regional troops launched a long-planned and U.S.-backed attack on the bases of the brutal Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) nearly a year and a half ago, the days of the Ugandan rebel outfit were supposed to be numbered.
But the cult-like group, led by self-styled prophet and war crimes fugitive Joseph Kony, is still wreaking havoc across Africa's Great Lakes region.
In late March, the world was again alerted to the rebel's violent activities by a report from U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, backed by the United Nations, which said 321 people were massacred in a killing spree in Democratic Republic of Congo's remote northeast in December.
LRA contacts told me the report's claims were "yet another fabrication by NGOs, which are advocating war". And they accused the United Nations of making them a scapegoat and using them as an excuse to stay in mineral-rich Congo.
While the truth may be hard to come by, the recent news of December's massacre serves as a nasty reminder of the string of failures in solving the LRA problem and a hint that more trouble may lie ahead.
The LRA fought a two-decade insurgency in northern Uganda before crossing into Congo in 2005. A Ugandan-led multinational force attacked its jungle bases in late 2008, and the rebels splintered into groups, with most crossing into Sudan and Central African Republic (CAR).
The International Criminal Court wants to try Kony for war crimes including massacring civilians, mutilating survivors and kidnapping thousands of children. Yet he is still at large - reportedly now hiding out in CAR.
What is the secret of this man's survival, along with his band of fighters who ruthlessly use children as soldiers, porters and sex slaves?
MEETING THE 'PROPHET'
For 20 years, Kony has thwarted every effort to capture him as he fights to install a government based on the biblical Ten Commandments. But I managed to track him down to his bush hideout on the Sudan-DRC border in 2006.
Adrenaline pumped through me in the moments before he appeared from a thicket. I did know what to expect from a man my articles had held responsible for killing civilians and slicing off people's lips and ears over the years.
His timid face twitched with nerves as I met his gaze. Expressing himself in English as he answered questions in his first-ever press conference was a struggle for a man with only a basic primary education.
But to judge Kony by these parameters would be a fatal mistake. A day later, he moved crowds to wild applause as he addressed people from his homeland in their Acholi language. He likened himself to a young, energetic chicken and his arch foe Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to an old, tired cock.
When I met him, his sweating skin was patterned with thread-like veins, but that was only one of his many faces. Some of the girls he took as his wives have described him a loving and romantic husband and his fighters say he is a man with military and spiritual prowess, while his victims loathe him as brutal and ruthless warlord.
I think Kony is a natural military genius whose original mission - to overthrow the Uganda government - was overtaken by his involvement in a foreign war in southern Sudan. Now it seems he is just fighting to survive another day.
I also met Vincent Otim, an 11-year-old child soldier. Wielding a machete, a Kalashnikov and a whistle strung around his neck, he represented the LRA's typical weapon of war.
I came across the baby-faced, amiable boy several times as part of Kony's protection detail. To explore the mind of an LRA-trained child soldier, I asked Otim how he would kill an adult if under attack.
"I would not even waste my bullet on you, I would just jump and slit your throat," he said, pointing at my neck.
His swiftness, precision and lack of hesitation left me wondering how Kony, an illiterate former Catholic altar boy, had become a master of manipulation and indoctrination, able to turn innocent young souls into killing machines.
The LRA trains children in the art of deception to hide their capacity to inflict maximum harm. Some have been forced to kill their parents to prevent them from going home and the mere thought of escape is punishable by death.
They are forced to grow dreadlocks to distinguish them from other children. They travel at night, covering long distances, and most have adapted to jungle life.
Using these methods, Kony managed to build an army dominated by children, and it seems that no regional army is trained or prepared to face children in battle.
This dark reality of child soldiering lies at the heart of the LRA's continued existence, alongside cult fanaticism and ruthless military efficiency.
The people slaughtered in December's Congo massacre were victims of the LRA's policy of perpetrating heinous attacks on soft targets in remote and defenceless villages.
Following the launch of Operation Lightning Thunder by regional armies aided by the United States in December 2008, the LRA went on a killing spree now known as the Christmas massacres, killing more than 800 people in Congo.
Eluding troops and going for vulnerable communities, the LRA tactic is to try to pin the blame for its alleged atrocities on those pursuing its fighters.
The LRA's political wing often defends the group against accusations regarding its role in violence and calls for peace talks, which have proved fruitless over the years.
Meanwhile, the LRA has become a personal, multinational rebel army that will fight for its existence for as long as the man at its helm succeeds in evading justice.
To that end, Kony will no doubt continue to do what he does best: unleash violence on innocent people and abduct scores of children to swell his human shield.