In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz: Living on the Brink of Disaster in Mobutu's Congo
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Known as "the Leopard," the president of Zaire for thirty-two years, Mobutu Sese Seko, showed all the cunning of his namesake -- seducing Western powers, buying up the opposition, and dominating his people with a devastating combination of brutality and charm. While the population was pauperized, he plundered the country's copper and diamond resources, downing pink champagne in his jungle palace like some modern-day reincarnation of Joseph Conrad's crazed station manager.
Michela Wrong, a correspondent who witnessed Mobutu's last days, traces the rise and fall of the idealistic young journalist who became the stereotype of an African despot. Engrossing, highly readable, and as funny as it is tragic, In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz assesses the acts of the villains and the heroes in this fascinating story of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
recognise Kabila’s authority. A DSP mutiny now would sabotage his plans. He drove immediately up the hill to the barracks, where he was confronted by a crowd of furious soldiers. As he tried to quieten a mob accusing him of selling out, someone walked up and shot him in the head, blowing out his brains. The finger of blame has long been pointed at Kongulu Mobutu, the brutal DSP captain, who stayed behind in Kinshasa to hunt down those responsible for his father’s overthrow and would certainly
members of the immediate family have moved into flats and villas in the capital’s most exclusive districts. In keeping with her former role as ‘mother of the nation’, the former first lady keeps a benevolent eye on the sizeable Congolese community in Rabat, a favourite jumping off point for youngsters bent on building new lives in Europe. She shares with her late husband a sense of the duties incumbent on the tribal chief, and is respected for her many acts of charity towards the less fortunate.
battered suitcase and worn khaki bag used by Stanley were barely working, discouraging any lingering over Congo’s controversial pioneer? Sly omission blurred effortlessly into blatant wishful thinking. In the Memorial Hall, where the paint was peeling off the ceiling, labels promised to reveal ‘the King’s intentions towards the Congo’. But the anti-slavery medals struck at Leopold’s behest made the same point as the rusting slave chains in the glass cases and the melodramatic tableaux vivants,
given the far greater numbers of Moroccans and Turks in Brussels. Despite all the cheering inventiveness, there’s a tragic poignancy about Matonge. The alliterative Lingala slang residents use to refer to life abroad is premised on vaunting ambition, but the aspirations come tinged with a sense of inferiority. For those abandoning Kinshasa, despairingly dubbed ‘Kosovo’, Belgium is ‘lola’, or ‘paradise’. Paris, another favourite destination, is known as ‘Panama’. Europe is ‘mikili’, ‘the promised
income. They sent troops and tanks to surround each building, preventing the new chief executives from reaching their offices. Fuming, Mobutu summoned the generals to his residence. ‘Either you free up those offices or I resign,’ he shouted. They obliged, but the way Mobutu had delivered his ultimatum shocked his entourage into stunned silence. ‘He had not threatened to sack the generals or discipline them for insubordination. Instead he was the one who had threatened to resign,’ recalled